Israel Plays Hi Tech War Game While Hizballah Throws Rocks for Tactical Gains

It was a typical concatenation of Middle East contrasts. Monday, May 14, Israel launched a four-day war game at civilian and military command levels. The lead actors are Chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, the General Staff, regional commanders as well as the prime minister and defense minister. The scenarios using computers, satellites and hi-tech communications are meant to simulate crisis management in the event of a full-scale war.
It will also impart the fundamentals of modern conflict management to PM Ehud Olmert and defense minister Amir Peretz, supplementing some of the shortcomings they displayed in the Lebanon war.
On the other side of Israel’s troubled northern border, Hizballah is carrying out a live exercise to chase the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon-UNIFIL peacekeepers away from the border region first, then from all parts of South Lebanon. The Lebanese militia places its trust in low-tech weaponry: rocks hurled at UN vehicles and yellow Hizballah flags planted provocatively right up against the Israeli border.
In muscle-flexing mode, Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah is employing hundreds of troops disguised as villagers and civilians of the militia’s reserve force to harass the UN peacekeepers patrolling areas under the UN Security Resolution 1701 of last August.
While Israel builds scenarios for a full-scale conflict on several fronts, Hizballah’s patron, Iran, prepares a war of attrition against the Jewish state by means of local flare-ups on its borders.
One Hizballah undercover group plants yellow Hizballah flags along the border with Israel, which are replaced as fast as they are removed by the peacekeepers.
A second group fans out along South Lebanese roads and entries to villages, often waiting hours to waylay UN patrols with a hail of stones and rocks. On some roads, they build makeshift roadblocks to trap the peacekeepers, aware that they are not permitted to open fire on civilians.
The most dangerous section of this anti-UN front is a pocket formed by Bint Jbeil, Joya, Tibnin and Maaruch, where Hizballah has located is southern regional command post.
An Israeli officer serving on the northern border, from which Hizballah’s attacks on UN troops are visible, reports that the international force has taken to keeping its distance from the high-risk areas of South Lebanon, confining patrols to armored vehicles with closed flaps. This reduces their effectiveness as observers to zero.
Saturday, May 12, the UNIFIL commander, Italian General Claudio Graziano, called a meeting of mayors of the Bin Jbeil region at the town’s public school. He expressed concern about incidents of stones being thrown at UN peacekeepers patrolling residential areas in the South, but tried to keep the tone of the meeting amicable.
“We are satisfied with the friendly relationship we hold with Southerners,” he said, “but stones are being thrown from time to time and some Southerners attempt to block our way while we are performing regular patrols; yet this does not happen very often.”
Graziano said his forces were working on “narrowing the cultural gap between peacekeepers and Southerners.”
Although a representative of the Lebanese Army, Brigadier Paul Matar, attended the meeting, its chiefs have not responded to the UN general’s request for its intervention to maintain order.
No one suggests that Israel’s national command war game is intended to stop Hizballah rocks and flags flying in S. Lebanon, any more than it is aimed at halting the Palestinian missiles flying day by day from Gaza, or pull down the fortifications going up there. The exercise is geared primarily to withstanding an outbreak of hostilities with Iran or Syria, should either or both dispatch their long-range missiles against strategic targets and densely populated towns in Israel.
For what kind of war is the IDF therefore preparing? One where its high tech preponderance will come into play or an asymmetrical conflict such as threatens from two of its borders? It is not clear if the Olmert government has decided which way to go.

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