A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending July 27, 2006

More than 30 civilians injured, two gravely, by some 87 Hizballah rockets striking Haifa and Galilee on Day Ten of the Lebanon War


21 July: Most were wounded in a direct hit of a Haifa apartment block. An Arab neighborhood of Haifa was also hit. The rockets from Lebanon damaged homes and started large fires in areas around Nahariya, Safed, Golan, Kiryat Shemona, Rosh Pina, Yesud Hamaalah.


Israeli warplanes bombard Hizballah and Palestinian rocket-firing positions around the South Lebanese town of Tyre Friday morning


21 July: Special ground units are going in close to destroy the Katyusha rocket crews firing from fruit orchards around the port-town and the Burj al Shamali Palestinian refugee camp. debkafile: Hizballah has subcontracted Palestinian terrorist groups and criminal gangs to take over the rocket fire against Israel from the Tyre district.


Four Israeli soldiers killed on second day of major Maroun er Ras battle in S. Lebanon Thursday


21 July: All four, members of the Egoz Special Operations unit, were killed Thursday, July 20, and 6 soldiers injured, in heavy fighting against Hizballah just inside the Lebanese border opposite Avivim north of Safed. Rockets were fired at Safed from inside the Lebanese mountain village by Hizballah crews hiding in dozens of tunnels and lying in ambush for Israeli forces.


Israeli mobile ground troops operate in four Lebanese pockets


22 July: The pockets are located at the southern entrance to the Beqaa Valley south Lake Qaroun on the Syrian border, southwest in the Nabatiya plateau, the Tufah region between the Zaharani and Litani Rivers – where Israeli troops cut off the Nabatiya-Sidon highway, and the Haroub, between the Zaharani and Aouali Rivers.

These operations are also severing the south from the center and north of Lebanon. Many of the 250,000 South Lebanese instructed to leave their homes by Israeli forces did move out. However many villagers have taken refuge in nearby caves and woods. This enables Hizballah fighters and rocket launchers to mingle with them and use them as shields.

Intense air fire focuses Saturday on the citrus orchards and banana groves around Tyre from which rocket fire is directed against northern Israel. More than 65 rockets had fallen on much of Galilee by midday Saturday. Ground forces scouring the groves have discovered a whole rabbit warren of fortified trenches and tunnels concealing hundreds of Hizballah fighters. Another pocket of intense Israeli military activity is Jabal Amel, a 22,000-foot range, between Yater and Zabqin villages 7 km from the Israeli border.


PM Ehud Olmert would consider the deployment of a European military force in Lebanon


23 July: He spoke hours before the arrival of US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in Jerusalem. Talking to the visiting German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Sunday, Olmert said such a force would be charged with deploying along the Lebanese-Israel border and monitoring passage between Lebanon and Syria, as well as boosting the Beirut government’s effort to disarm Hizballah.

Neither did Olmert rule out the Siniora government acting as mediator in negotiations with Hizballah to free the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers.


Two people killed, 14 injured – some seriously – in Hizballah rocket barrage on Haifa Sunday


23 July: Dozens more fall on Israel’s northern towns, villages and farms. Sirens in Zichron Yaacov and Binyamina furthest points south so far, 70 km from Lebanese border. The car in Haifa was perforated by hundreds of small ball bearings packed in the rocket’s warhead which killed the killed the driver on the spot. Awad was killed by a direct hit on his workshop in Kiryat Ata. At least 93 people injured by 90 Katyusha rockets on Israel’s northern towns, villages and farms. In Carmiel, 2 children were injured. Rockets seriously injured one person in Acre. Kiryat Shemona suffered serious damage.


Washington Expected the IDF to Dispose of Hizballah in a Grand Slam


23 July: US officials are saying in private and “on condition of anonymity” that White House circles are disappointed. They had expected the Israeli Defense Forces, the most effective Middle East army, to dispose of Hassan Nasrallah and his Hizballah in a few days, presenting the Bush administration and Sunni Muslim Arab rulers with a dearly hoped-for smash victory against Islamic fundamentalist terrorists.

On Day Twelve of the war, Israel faces major tactical difficulties:

The enemy has reduced its offensive against Israel to two simple tactics: shooting rockets at population centers and lying in wait for a chance to take Israeli troops unawares.

It therefore behooves Israeli forces, which Saturday, July 22, launched a large-scale offensive to sanitize South Lebanon, to beat Hizballah at the game of catching the opposition unawares.

Israel’s home front, though solidly behind its servicemen, needs to be assured that the war is on course and will be fought “until the job is finished.” This is the mantra heard up and down Israel, most insistently from the one-third of the population taking the punishment of lives lost or disrupted and homes destroyed by daily rocket attacks, with very little complaint.

A quarter of a million Israelis, many of them children, have fled their homes in the Hizballah rocket-battered north and moved south


Israel lost four servicemen in Lebanon Monday, July 24, Day 13 of the war


24 July: Two piloted an Apache which crashed on the Israeli side of the Lebanon border in circumstances the IDF are investigating. Two more died in action at the Hizballah town of Bin Jubeil in south Lebanon.

Another 14 troops were injured, two moderately in various assaults on rocket launchers, Hizballah strongholds, weapons stores and border positions.

Five were wounded in friendly fire, apparently by a chopper providing close cover. Eleven soldiers were injured in combat with Hizballah in Bin Jubeil, among them a battalion commander whose tank ran over an explosive. The officer lost a hand.

The IDF confirms two Hizballah fighters were captured in the Maroun er Ras battle and are now in custody in Israel.


Hizballah Brings Iwo Jima Tactics to South Lebanon


24 June: Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel Monday, July 24, that its ground incursions in Lebanon would not stop Hizballah rocket fire against its cities.

debkafile‘s military experts say he is correct.

He could go on firing his rockets even when a multinational force is posted on the Lebanese-Israeli border. Therefore a buffer zone would offer no solution to a cessation of cross-border hostilities.

Notwithstanding the IDF’s important battle gains at a number in the last 24 only one multiple firing rocket launcher and 6 single-barrel launchers have been destroyed.

Last week, Israel’s army chiefs discovered a new Hizballah tactic – the camouflage techniques borrowed from the Japanese in the 1945 Iwo Jima battle. A senior officer told debkafile grimly: “Now we know that when a stand of five or six trees suddenly starts walking, we are seeing a 14-barreled Fajr 3 rocket launcher on the move; one or two trees in motion may conceal a couple of Hizballah fighters.”

debkafile‘s military analysts assert that the rocket offensive against Israel will go on for because the government is denying the IDF enough ground troops to grapple with the moving rocket crews. A constant flow of Iran supplies is pumped in through Syria.


In Bint Jubeil, Israeli forces killed Khalil Amin Shivli, 44, commander of the Central Sector in South Lebanon, with four lieutenants Tuesday


25 July: debkafile: He is the most senior Hizballah officer to die in the Lebanon war. His function paralleled a regional brigade commander of the Israeli army.


Middle East war rhetoric escalates sharply with Rice’s exit from region


25 July: Not surprisingly, the most extreme statement came from Iran: A Middle East storm is brewing and will strike violently, said the radical Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “The use of force in Lebanon could trigger a hurricane.”

He spoke after Riyadh released an official statement from King Abdullah asserting: “If the peace option fails because of Israeli arrogance, there will be no option but a war in the region.”

Hopes had been entertained In Cairo and Riyadh that the visiting US secretary would reprove Israel for its extensive military action in Lebanon and apply the brakes in her private talks with Ehud Olmert. Instead, no sooner had she departed when Israeli defense minister Amir Peretz announced that Israel is clearing a security zone in South Lebanon that will remain under IDF fire control until a multinational force assumes responsibility.


Hizballah rockets kill two Israeli civilians on Day 14 of the Lebanon war. A dozen shook Maalot and Carmiel Tuesday night, more than 100 in a single day


25 July: One killed a 15-year old girl at her home next door to a mosque in the mixed Muslim-Druze village of Kfar Marar. Ten villagers were injured. A 16-rocket Hizballah barrage against Haifa caused a man to die of a heart attack, injured 20 people and severely damaged the Lower City’s commercial and port facilities.


AMAN chief confirms that Syria has placed its armed forces on the highest preparedness level in recent years, as debkafile disclosed Sunday


25 July: Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin described the situation as “explosive” in a special intelligence briefing Tuesday to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee.

Some members sternly criticized government inaction in calling up two reserve divisions and making preparations for war with Syria.


After Losing Bin Jubeil, Hizballah Avoids Frontal Encounters, Switches to Guerrilla Tactics


25 July: The Bint Jubeil operation taught Israeli war planners three lessons:

1. It did not help reduce the rocket fire against Israel. The number of launchers and rockets found in the small town was minimal.

2. Bin Jubeil and its satellite villages are only one small center at the southern end of the central sector of the south. There are dozens such clusters across the region

3. The IDF found that certain local elements, which once cooperated with Israel forces during their 24-year occupation of South Lebanon until the May 2000 withdrawal, were still willing to be helpful.

While inflicting losses on Israel forces in the battles for towns and villages, Hizballah’s losses are many times greater. Therefore their fighters in the south have been instructed to discontinue face-to-face combat with Israeli troops, withdraw from built-up areas and wage guerrilla warfare from bunkers, woods, forests, dry river beds, and fruit orchards


Israel loses nine officers and men in clashes with Hizballah at Bin Jubeil and Maroun er Ras


26 July: debkafile reports the Olmert government is stunned by the IDF’s setbacks in South Lebanon and the rising casualty figures. Army chiefs complain that the government is hampering the military performance by holding back permission to raise the level of fire power and troop numbers in line with campaign requirements

debkafile‘s military sources add: The generals conducting the offensive in South Lebanon are also under fire. There are insistent calls for Chief of staff Lt. General Dan Halutz to draft in Israel’s more experienced generals over the heads of the generals in the field. One name mentioned is that of Maj-Gen. (res.) Gaby Ashkenazi, former OC northern command, who has had long experience of Hizballah and its tactics.

The initial investigation of what went wrong in the Bint Jubeil battle that ended Wednesday night showed that the Israeli force did not take control of the small town of 20,000, as reported, but left the northern approaches open and unguarded. A Hizballah reconnaissance team discovered the gap and brought in the force waiting at Banduriya to block an Israeli northern advance, which mounted a counter-attack.


A record number of 130 Hizballah rockets hit northern Israel Wednesday Day 15 of the war


26 July: Six people injured, one critically.The rockets hit the Haifa area, Carmiel, Safed, Kiryat Shmona, Nahariya, Hatzor and other communities in non-stop attacks from 0600. Injuries and damage were caused throughout Haifa’s bayside suburbs. Gush Halav and the Amuka Valley near Safed were hit for the first time. Dozens of people were treated for shock. The small town of Maalot took 40 rockets. Its Arab neighbor, Maalot Tarshiha, received an e-mail from Hizballah urging its inhabitants to flee for their lives.


Israeli Army Branches East, Faces Heavy Resistance in Central Sector


26 July: Wednesday, July 25, the IDF suffered a major reverse at Bin Jubeil where HIzballlah fighters regrouped and counter-attacked, killing 9 Israeli officers and men and injuring 24.

But other IDF contingents had meanwhile embarked on the next stage of the campaign in the Eastern Sector of South Lebanon. This came to light when a series of Israeli air strikes against Hizballah positions and installations around Khiam hit a Unifil post and killed four observers Tuesday night, July 25. That night, an Israeli force pushed towards Khiam on its way to the approaches of the large Druze village of Hatzbaya and control of a stretch of south Lebanon once known as Fatahland (before the 1982 war cleansed it of Yasser Arafat’s terrorists.) For the first time in 35 years, Israeli outposts at the disputed Shebaa farms near Syrian Mt. Hermon positions would have strategic depth.

Monday, July 24, Damascus warned that Israeli artillery coming within 20km of Damascus would not be tolerated.

Perhaps the most important gain from the crisis is Israel’s recovery of control over its main sources of water, the Wazani springs in the divided Ghajar village.


UK complains to Washington about two large cargo planes carrying munitions to Israel stopping over at Scottish airport


27 July: The planes were carrying GBU-28 bunker busters for bombing Hizballah’s tunnel fortresses. Two more such cargo flights are expected over the weekend. British foreign secretary Margaret Becker accuses the US of not following procedures.

On July 23, debkafile first revealed the start of a US airlift to Israel in response to Iran’s re-supplies to Hizballah three days earlier. Israel is receiving fresh stocks of bombs, missiles and spare parts for Israeli Air Force aircraft and helicopters. Hizballah is getting via Syria long-range Zelzal-2 missiles and Fajr 3, Fajr 5 and Katyusha rockets, anti-tank and anti-air missiles, some of which can reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

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