Israel: Aftermath

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July 26, 2006: Israel expressed regret over the accidental bombing of the UN observation post yesterday. Meanwhile, UN officials on the ground in Lebanon admit that Hizbollah has been deliberately mixing in with civilians for protection. Most of the Lebanese casualties have been caused by this tactic, as the Israelis must either not attack Hizbollah troops and weapons, or fire and hit the Lebanese civilians adjacent to the Hizbollah target. This has resulted in some 2,000 Lebanese casualties (about 20 percent of them dead) so far. Israel has suffered about 360 casualties. Some 80 percent of these have been civilians, injured by nearly a thousand Hizbollah rockets fired into northern Israel. As a result of this, nearly a million Israelis have been spending a lot of time in bomb shelters, and economic activity in northern Israel has been hampered. The years of Hizbollah rocket attacks has prepared the Israelis for the massive use of rockets now. Most Israelis have access to bomb shelters, and Israeli civil defense measures are pretty efficient. Such was not the case in Lebanon, although Hizbollah had bunkers for its own personnel. But most Lebanese civilians were left unprotected against some 2,000 Israeli bomb and artillery attacks.
Israeli troops are moving to capture Hizbollah observation posts and bunkers used by the rocket launching crews. The 14,000 Hizbollah rockets are stored all over southern Lebanon, usually in homes, Mosques or public buildings. The launching crews take the rockets out, and either launch them right away, or move them to nearby launch sites. Although the Israeli air attacks destroyed over a hundred rocket storage sites, there are still enough remaining to enable Hizbollah to fire up to 90 rockets a day. However, the average is down 30-50 percent from the peak rates of over a hundred a day.
Hizbollah knows, however, that as long as they can launch at least one rocket a day, they can claim victory. This is because Arabs no longer expect to be able to defeat Israel militarily, so that if the Arab force is still fighting, it is considered a victory. While ludicrous, this attitude has been widely accepted throughout the Middle East. However, this twisted logic is beginning to fray, and an increasing number of Arabs are questioning it. But in the short term, it still works. And right now, the short term is all that Hizbollah cares about. Even if the Israelis push Hizbollah back 20 kilometers from the border, they can get longer range rockets from Syria, and continue firing into Israel.
Israeli military operations continue in Gaza, to find a kidnapped Israeli soldier. In the three weeks since the soldier was taken, there have been nearly 400 Palestinian casualties, about ten times the Israeli losses. The Palestinians are now willing to make a deal to release the Israeli soldier, a stop to the Palestinian rocket attacks, in return for s ceasefire. The Palestinians are suffering far more from the violence, than the Israelis, and Palestinian public opinion is beginning to show it.
July 25, 2006: Israel said it would clear a security zone along the Lebanese border, Everyone would be expelled, and anyone who entered would be fired upon. The depth of the zone was left unclear. It could be as much as 20 kilometers, or more. The zone would eventually be turned over to an acceptable (competent) international peacekeeping force. So far, there have been few offers of troops for this peacekeeping force. The peacekeepers would have to deal with Hizbollah, which in the past has shown no reluctance to threaten, or even attack, UN peacekeepers. Several hundred thousand Shia have fled their homes in southern Lebanon, and the presence of these UN troops would allow the refugees to return. But mixed in with the refugees would be Hizbollah operators, who would try to reestablish Hizbollah's military presence in the south.
A Hizbollah official admitted that they did not expect this kind of response when Hizbollah invaded Israel, ambushed some Israeli troops and took two of them captive. Most Lebanese don't believe this. While Hizbollah has been able to muster public support throughout Lebanon and the Arab world, they know that in the aftermath of all this, despite declaring a victory, they are already being blamed for causing a disaster, and will suffer substantial losses in the aftermath of this war. Hizbollah will lose control of much of south Lebanon, and other Lebanese Shia political parties are already maneuvering to grow at Hizbollah's expense. While most Lebanese cheer Hizbollah publicly, privately they see all this as a ploy to restore Syrian and Iranian control over Lebanon. This control was broken last year with the expulsion of Syrian troops from Lebanon. The Christian, Sunni and Druze parties thought they had a deal with Hizbollah (the main Shia party) to keep Syria (who still believes large chunks of eastern Lebanon should be part of Syria) out.
An Israeli bomb hit a UN observation post on the eastern portion of the border, killing for UN troops (from Austria, China, Canada and Finland).
July 24, 2006: Israel advanced into southern Lebanon, seizing three hilltop villages. Each village was defended by 100-200 Hizbollah fighters, who were killed or captured. UN observers continued to observe along the border. Today the UN peacekeepers 45 Israeli air or artillery strikes, and twelve Hizbollah missile launches. The UN force has largely been useless, with Hizbollah intimidating the UN troops into either backing off, or even cooperating with terrorist operations. Israel suspects that some of the peacekeepers may now be acting as observers for Hizbollah.

 

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