Israel: Slowly Sliding Into Ceasefire Mode

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August 13, 2006: The UN says the ceasefire will go into effect tomorrow morning, but no one in southern Lebanon believes that. The fighting may stop for a while, but Hizbollah will resist disarming. The ceasefire calls for all Israeli troops to leave Lebanon, to be replaced by European peacekeepers.
The 30,000 Israeli troops who moved into Lebanon have already reached the Litani river. There's lots of fighting going on between the Litani river and the Israeli border. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Hizbollah personnel are trapped in southern Lebanon, along with many weapons, including thousands of rockets. The presence of all those Israeli troops has sharply reduced the number of rockets Hizbollah can launch. Until last week, some 200 rockets a day were being launched into northern Israel. Although fewer of them were hitting anything of note, the number of rockets launched dropped to about 60 yesterday, and even fewer today. However, before the end of Sunday, Hizbollah ordered every rocket possible to be launched. Use 'em or lose 'em. Some 250 rockets were fired into northern Israeli, killing one person.
The Israeli troops are apparently going to stay in Lebanon until foreign (European) peacekeepers show up. The understanding is that the European troops will keep Hizbollah out of the area. That will be hard to do, and things will probably become interesting and exciting as Hizbollah tries to play the European peacekeepers the way they did the UN "observer" troops, for over a decade. The UN "observer" force was totally compromised by Hizbollah, which used coercion, bribes and outright terror to subdue the UN force. Israel expects the new UN force to show more spine when dealing with Hizbollah. That remains to be seen.
Still to be resolved is the fate of the two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizbollah back on July 12th. Hizbollah thought they could get Israel to exchange hundreds of Hizbollah personnel held in Israeli prisons, for the two Israeli soldiers. Doing this would be enormously unpopular in Israel, but getting the two soldiers back is important also. Israel is making a major intelligence effort to locate the two soldiers, with an idea towards using commandoes to grab them back.
August 12, 2006: Over 20,000 Israeli troops crossed into Lebanon all along the border. This was not a blitzkrieg, but a largely infantry operations. The Israelis expect to reach the Litani river in a few days, and then spend a week or two clearing out Hizbollah people and weapons from the area. Hizbollah is unable to stop the Israelis, and is hoping to inflict a lot of casualties, then pitch that as a victory. Today, Israeli troops suffered about a hundred casualties, but only a few Hizbollah rockets landed in northern Israel. Hizbollah casualties were not announced, but they were probably heavy. The Israelis are known to be surrounding and fighting pockets of Hizbollah fighters. The Israelis also had dozens of transport helicopters bringing in troops and supplies. Hizbollah apparently brought down one of those choppers with a Russian anti-tank missile.
Although Arabs comprise about 20 percent of the Israeli population, about half the Israeli civilians killed by Hizbollah rockets have been Israeli Arabs. That's because most Israeli Arabs live in northern Israel. Hizbollah has broadcast warnings to Israeli Arabs, warning them to flee northern Israel. But Israeli Arabs have not left the area in any greater numbers than other Israelis. So far, the Hizbollah rockets have killed 38 Israeli civilians, and wounded over 200. Lebanese and Hizbollah losses are uncertain, because Hizbollah has been caught faking civilian losses for journalists, and keeping quiet about their own military losses. Hizbollah has also been caught trying to pass off dead fighters as civilians. It appears that over 500 Lebanese have been killed in the last two months of fighting. but it is uncertain how many of those are Hizbollah personnel. Israel has been using mostly smart bombs and guided missiles, but Hizbollah has been using civilians as human shields.
August 11, 2006: Israel has moved about 30,000 troops to the Lebanese border, and these appear ready to move into Lebanon. The plan is apparently to advance to the Litani river, creating a "Hizbollah free" zone about 20 kilometers deep. This would keep most of the 122mm rockets from reaching northern Israel. The longer range Hizbollah rockets are harder to hide or move around, and Israeli air power has apparently destroyed most of them.
The UN passed a ceasefire resolution that Lebanon, Hizbollah and Israel all agreed to, sort of. The devil is in the details.

 

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