Attrition: Losses in Lebanon

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August19, 2006: Hizbollah does not publish any data on its armed strength. But it is known that, basically, Hizbollah's fighters are a reservist organization. There are about 3-4,000 "active" reservists available for full-time duty, and another 10,000 or so "inactive" reservists, who have some weapons training, and are only activated in the most serious emergencies (like the recent war). Most of the time, 500-1,000 of the active reservists are on duty full time. In addition to watching the Lebanese border, there are facilities in the Bekaa valley and in Beirut that need guarding. Some inactive reservists pull guard duty as their "civilian" job, but these fellows are operating as security guards, not soldiers. Keep in mind that Hizbollah is drawing its military manpower from a population of only about 1.3 million Shia (whose defense is the main reason for Hizbollah existing). So they have about one percent of the population armed. That's about 50 percent more (as a fraction of the population), than the United States, and much higher than most nations. However, Israel has about nine percent of its population (80 percent of them reservists) under arms, and Syria has about three percent of its population under arms. The Middle East is a much more heavily armed region, than any other.

Unofficial reports from the Israelis indicate that nearly 600 Hizbollah fighters were killed, and probably about 1,500 wounded. Some of these were inactive reservists called up to perform civil defense and security functions. The rockets were apparently being fired by a dozen or so teams (of ten to twenty men) who were trained to take the rockets from their hiding places, set them up, and fire them. This was dangerous work, and these rocket teams apparently suffered heavy casualties.

Less well trained teams appear to have been called in towards the end, because, although the number of rockets fired each night didn't decline much, the accuracy did. On the last night, some 250 rockets were fired, and few hit anything of value. That last bunch of rockets killed one Israeli, and wounded a few dozen others. Hizbollah also suffered a lot of casualties in Beirut, and various other military facilities they had throughout southern and central Lebanon.

Israel, as usual, is not talking about it's targeting, but they had UAVs, aircraft, helicopters and satellite coverage of southern Lebanon. Israeli aircraft always had plenty of military targets to hit. They also had lots of their commandoes in action up there, most of them just quietly scouting, and calling in smart bomb strikes. The true extent of the damage suffered by Hizbollah won't be known until one of their senior officials defects or gets captured, or when the organization is destroyed and some of its files captured.

Israeli losses were miniscule. It only mobilized about 30,000 troops. The Northern Command, which covers the Lebanese and Syrian border, has a full strength of over 200,000 troops, if there is a full mobilization. Israel lost about a 120 soldiers killed, and another few hundred wounded. Thus it suffered about eight casualties per division per day. That's a little higher than what American troops suffered during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but a lot less than they suffered during the 1967 Six Day War (110 per division per day) or the 1973 war (90).

Thus for the forces involved, the Israelis suffered about 1.6 percent casualties for the entire 2006 campaign, while Hizbollah suffered some 13 percent casualties. Economic casualties were also lopsided, with Lebanon losing at least ten percent of GDP, versus 1.5 percent for Israel. However, since the Israeli attacks concentrated on Hizbollah, and tended to avoid the Lebanese Christians, it appears that the Hizbollah population lost up to half their GPD. Israel will recover within a year, the Hizbollah areas will take several years.

 


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