A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending August 17, 2006
Four expanded IDF divisions are pressing forward with wide-scale operation against Hizballah
12 August: It is carried forward by four divisional elements of 11 brigades, about 12,000 fighting men. Head of the Ground Forces Branch Maj.-Gen Benny Gantz is leading the IDF’s South Lebanon command. The first stage of the new operation has succeeded in its objective of encircling Hizballah’s 1,500-strong force in a large swathe from the Litani River in the north up to Tyre in the southwest. This tactic follows the 1982 Lebanon War stratagem of pushing Palestinian forces out of South Lebanon up to Beirut and then putting them to siege.
Now, Israeli troops are pushing Hizballah into the Tyre enclave in order to contain it there. Hizballah strength will be left intact in central and northern Lebanon, with two of its three rocket brigades: medium and long range. In the last few hours, Hizballah’s command and control in the south is showing signs of distress after finding itself cut off from reinforcements and re-supply from the north by the rapid Israeli advances of the last four days. The last northern border road link from Lebanon to Syria cut by Israeli air strikes.
Israeli Air Force builds up presence in Beirut skies Sunday night to pre-empt long-range Iranian-made Zelzal missile launch against Tel Aviv
13 August: Our military sources report that the night before the Monday morning 0800 hours ceasefire deadline, Hizballah crews were sighted preparing to fire one of those heavy missiles which can reach central Israel and the Tel Aviv conurbation. The air force earlier aborted two Hizballah drones packed with explosives en route to Tel Aviv.
Eight Khaibar-1 missiles hit the Beit Shean and Jezreel valleys south of Haifa. The port city and it’s the bayside suburbs took a beating. Many buildings and vehicles caught fire.
Lebanese minister Marwan Hamadi accused Hassan Nasrallah Sunday night of reneging on his pledge to abide the UN ceasefire
13 August: Marwan Hamade, Lebanese information minister, a Druze, says Nasrallah has broken his word to order Hizballah fighters south of the Litani to hand in its weapons to Lebanese army troops deployed there.
Israeli troops are waiting for directives on for Monday 0800 when the ceasefire is due to go into effect after its unanimous approval by the Israeli government Sunday.
The UN ceasefire resolution unravels as Lebanese government backtracks ahead of the Monday, Aug. 14 0800 deadline
13 August: The Lebanese government postponed a meeting Sunday afternoon on disarming Hizballah. Nasrallah reversed his conditional consent to the UN ceasefire which included a veto of an arms embargo and Hizballah’s withdrawal from Lebanon.
Then, after the Israeli cabinet approved the UN ceasefire, he told the Siniora government the deal was off. Iran and Syria warned the Lebanese government not to try and disarm Hizballah.
Olmert criticized for accepting premature ceasefire
13 August: debkafile adds Criticism is mounting in the Israeli public and army of the way prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Amir Peretz and the cabinet conducted the Lebanon war now going into its second month. Therefore, Israel must forego the primary goals of the war.
Senior IDF officers blame the high proportion of fallen men at the front in the first two days of the broadened ground offensive to the tight time frame Olmert accepted for meeting an arbitrary ceasefire deadline set for 0800 hours Monday, Aug. 14.
The army was given 60 hours to attain all the tactical goals of its final mission. The result in the last 48 hours has been slapdash improvisations and cut corners. The officers say the time remaining is too short for completing the vital siege of Tyre, Hizballah’s main S. Lebanese stronghold. A large stock of rockets and launchers has still to be eliminated there. Neither can the army finish by Monday morning, the clearing out of Hizballah fighters from the south – even from its bases in the more-or-less empty villages close to the Israel border. Hundreds of buildings are therefore being flattened by air or close-range fire.
In Saturday night media interviews, top-ranking generals made their disapproval of the government known. The chief of staff Lt. Gen Dan Halutz and OC northern command Maj Gen Udi Adam, in particular, let it be understood that the wide-scale ground finally permitted to go forward Friday shortly before the Security Council resolution had come two weeks too late and precious time had been lost.
Israeli death toll Sunday, hours before ceasefire went into effect, rises to nine soldiers
14 August: Eight were injured, two seriously in two battles near Qantara and Ayta a-Chaab.
Saturday saw the heaviest Israeli war losses in one day of 24 soldiers killed and 74 injured, 11 seriously.
Israeli ground, air and naval forces ordered to hold fire and stand on the ready at 0800 hours local time Monday, August 14 as the UN ceasefire went into effect
14 August: Ahead of the ceasefire, sirens sounded from west to east of northern Israel ordering civilians to stay in shelters until Sunday night and take no chances on Hizballah holding to the ceasefire. The streets of northern Israel are deserted. A record 250 rockets were fired into Israel Sunday, including 8 heavy Khaibar-1 missiles. Israeli commanders in S. Lebanon ordered to hold their fire except in self-defense or if “hazard identified.” All offensive operations halted by land and air.
Two bomb trucks identified on their way to Israeli town of Metula and destroyed on the Lebanese side of the border. S. Beirut was bombed all night up to the last minute of the ceasefire. Five Israeli soldiers died in combat Sunday. In the five weeks of this round of war, Israel suffered 168 dead, 116 servicemen and 52 civilians. Thousands injured. More than 4,000 Hizballah rockets were launched against northern Israel. Israel reports up to 500 Hizballah fighters and commanders killed in the five-week war.
Tehran Takes Gloomy View of the Lebanon War and Truce
14 August: After UN Security Council resolution 1701 calling for a truce was carried Friday, Aug. 11, the heads of the Iranian regime received two bleak evaluations of the situation in Lebanon: their compilers were concerned that Iran had been manipulatively robbed of its primary deterrent asset ahead of a probable nuclear confrontation with the United States and Israel.
One document complained Hizballah squandered thousands of rockets – either by firing them into Israel or having them destroyed by the Israeli air force – and all for the sake of a conflict with Israel over two kidnapped soldiers.
It took Iran two decades to build up Hizballah’s rocket inventory.
debkafile‘s sources estimate that Hizballah’s adventure wiped out most of the vast sum of $4-6 bn the Iranian treasury sunk into building its military strength. The organization was meant to be strong and effective enough to provide Iran with a formidable deterrent to Israel embarking on a military operation to destroy the Islamic regime’s nuclear infrastructure. It was provided with a bunker network and chain of fortified positions containing war rooms equipped with the finest western hi-tech gadgetry, including night vision gear, computers and electronics, as well as protective devices against bacteriological and chemical warfare.
As seen from Tehran, Israel looked as though it was carrying out a warming-up exercise in preparation for its main action against Iran’s nuclear program.
The US says it is unacceptable for the UN to take months to deploy an expanded force in Lebanon
15 August: This is urgent, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack Tuesday after UN Secretary Kofi Annan told Israeli TV Channel 2 it would take weeks or moths to beef up UNIFIL.. He said perhaps 3,500 peacekeepers can arrive in up to two weeks provided France consents to lead the force. UNIFIL commander, Maj. Gen. Alain Pellegrini, told Le Monde it would take a year for an expanded force to reach full strength.
Assad: Hizballah defeated the Israeli army
15 August: In a speech, the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad remarked that Israel troops failed to reach the Litani River in a month, whereas in 1982, they were in Beirut within a week.
The Arabs have received nothing or very little for peace, therefore Damascus supports “resistance” because resistance is the way to peace.
Nasrallah Is Already Carving out Lebanon’s Future
15 August: President George W. Bush and prime minister Ehud Olmert in speeches on Aug. 13 declared Hizballah would no longer be able to maintain a state within a state.
debkafile‘s exclusive sources in Beirut report that Nasrallah’s machinations represent a reality which is a world away from this kind of rhetoric:
Hizballah forces in the South will not oppose the deployment of Lebanese troops and a strengthened UNIFIL force, so long as they understand who their hosts are, namely Hizballah. This nullifies the injunction to the Beirut government to assert Lebanese sovereignty in every part of the country.
Siniora must stop talking about disarming Hizballah else Hizballah ministers and MPs will topple his government.
Nasrallah’s men are out consolidating his “state within a state.” Hizballah volunteers are on the spot helping the returning refugees to start reconstruction work as a national mission.
This was a neat device to open the door for Hizballah fighters and cadres to reach their former bases, fortifications and bunkers facing the Israeli border. To rebuild his depleted South Lebanon army, Nasrallah also quietly ordered all Hizballah fighters in the north, the Beqaa Valley and Baalbek, to pack their bags and head south with their families.
Hizballah thus regrouped in the south by a smooth, rapid maneuver.
So, whether or not Hizballah was defeated as the US president claimed matters little: Nasrallah has had the last word in the current round of the war.
Lebanese troops cross into South Lebanon Thursday for the first time since 1975
16 August: debkafile: This deployment was made possible by the deal prime minister Fouad Siniora struck with Hizballah for their juxtaposition in the south and along the borders with Syria. Hizballah will stay in the south and remain armed provided the weapons are kept out of sight.
debkafile‘s Beirut sources disclose the deal’s six components;
1. The Lebanese army, which hopes to muster 7,500 men, will move into Hizballah’s former positions along the Lebanese border with Israel.
2. Hizballah’s fighting force including its rocket and missile launchers will be concentrated in 50 of the 180 villages and towns of South Lebanon.
3. The Lebanese army will help Hizballah gather all its weapons and rockets scattered across the south and transfer them to these Hizballah-controlled strongholds.
4. Hizballah fighters will not wear uniform or display their weapons in public.
5. A Hizballah presence will be permitted in all parts of South Lebanon not occupied by Lebanese troops.
6. Lebanese units will deploy at all the official border crossings into Syria, but not the dozens of unauthorized crossing points, which will remain under Hizballah control.
Peretz criticized for proposing talks with Syria at home and in Washington
16 August: debkafile reports: The US has asked Israel’s Olmert government for clarifications of a statement that conflicts with the US policy which cut Syria out of diplomatic moves on the Lebanon conflict.
Amir Peretz spoke the day after Syrian president Bashar Assad boasted Hizballah had defeated Israel at war, threatened further Arab “resistance” and called the New Middle East an illusion. German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier cancelled his trip to Damascus in protest against Assad’s “negative contribution.”
Yet Peretz stated Wednesday: “We must hold a dialogue with Lebanon, and we should create the conditions for dialogue also with Syria.”
Bush gives the Lebanon multinational force wings, Israel the tacit go-ahead for air strikes against arms trucks from Syria
16 August: Washington took two quiet steps to prop up the Siniora government and retrieve the vanishing multinational force ordered by Resolution 1701.
The Bush administration promised an air surveillance wing for UNIFIL to scan South Lebanon and the border crossings into Syria. This has brought France around to consenting to send troops to the expanded international force.
Condoleezza Rice also gave Shimon Peres a quiet go-ahead for the Israeli air force to destroy trucks suspected of carrying rockets and other arms from Syria into Lebanon. Siniora agreed to turn a blind eye to this continuing Israeli air activity over Lebanon as he has for Hizballah’s continued armed presence south of the Litani River.
The first elements of the Lebanese army’s 2nd 3rd and 12th Battalions crossed the Qasmiyeh Bridge over the Litani into South Lebanon before midnight Wednesday, August 16.