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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Push to the Litani

The UN has adopted a 'cease fire' hudna resolution, which has now been approved by Lebanon and Hezbullah. The Israeli cabinet will be taking up the resolution in the morning.

In the meantime, the IDF is pushing all out to reach the Litani River before the resolution goes into effect, which is scheduled to take place at 7:00 AM local time on Monday - a little more than thirty-one hours from now. It's a shame they weren't allowed to do this sooner.

Thousands of troops were dropped into Lebanon today, tripling the number of troops fighting there in the largest operation the IDF has undertaken since 1973. Armored, infantry and engineering forces are involved. The helicopter crash on which I reported in the previous post occurred during an operation in which helicopters are dropping thousands of troops deep in Lebanon.

No one is saying how far the IDF has gotten, although HaAretz is reporting that IDF soldiers have reached the Litani River. Seven IDF soldiers have been killed today - two of them apparently when one of our own tanks ran over them by accident - and another eleven have been seriously wounded. "Dozens" of other soldiers have been wounded moderately or lightly. HaAretz is also reporting that none of the soldiers who were killed today were reservists (which means that they were conscripts - mostly single men between the ages of 18 and 21).

The Jerusalem Post lists how the casualties occurred:
One soldier from Brigade 7 was killed after an anti-tank missile hit his tank in the village of Kantara in the eastern sector on Saturday. One soldier from Brigade 401 was seriously wounded after an anti-tank missile hit his tank in the village of Batiri

Another soldier was killed and five seriously wounded during clashes between a force from the Nahal Brigade's Battalion 931 and Hizbullah gunmen in the village of Randuyia in the western sector. In the same village two other soldiers were killed- one from the Nahal and the other from Armored Brigade 401 - during clashes with guerillas.

In an unfortunate accident, two other soldiers were killed and one more was seriously wounded when a tank reversed into the soldiers from Battalion 51 of the Golani Brigade in the village of Hadta in the central sector. In the same village another Golani soldier, from Batallion 12, was killed during clashes with Hizbullah gunmen.

Another soldier was seriously wounded after his D9 armored bulldozer drove over a large explosive device in the village of Atiri in the central sector. An officer from Brigade 401 was also seriously wounded and three were lightly wounded after an anti-tank missile hit their tank in the village of Dir Sirin in the western sector.

Throughout the day, the IAF struck over 100 targets in southern Lebanon, including rocket launch sites, Hizbullah offices and bridges.

Meanwhile, on the ground, over 70 soldiers were wounded, as violent clashes continued between IDF troops and Hizbullah gunmen.
My first question about this operation is why the heck didn't they do this before. And the answer to that is quite simple - go read yesterday's posts. Olmert is a corrupt leftist. The second question is why do it now, and that's the more interesting question. I have a number of answers to that one:

1. The IDF was upset about this cease fire hudna from the beginning, and the commanders really believe that they can reach the Litani and have an accomplishment to point to before the hudna comes into effect, even if it is less than the full defeat of Hezbullah.

2. Olmert is looking at the polls. According to a Dahaf poll, Olmert's personal approval rating fell from 73% to 66% last week. That's a large drop, especially when you consider that polls here generally undercount the right, and the right is not pleased with Olmert at all. He is allowing the IDF to do what the IDF wanted to do anyway, because he wants to be able to declare victory.

3. The IDF thinks it is going to have time beyond Monday morning to continue fighting, and that it can attain more than just a victory in name. In that regard, I point you to the following from a HaAretz article:
UN Middle East envoy Alvaro de Soto told Reuters on Saturday the UN force could begin deploying in seven to 10 days, suggesting there is still some time before the "immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations," as called for in the resolution.


With the expansion of the ground offensive in Lebanon, four divisions were operating in south Lebanon and most of the activity was focused in areas from where Hezbollah has been firing short-range rockets into Israel. Sources in the IDF General Staff said four to seven days would be needed to complete the occupation of the area.


IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said on Saturday that the IDF had tripled its troops in Lebanon. A top IDF official has said that the army will stop its offensive as soon as it is ordered to do so by the political leadership and later it will begin to retrace its steps to uncover any pockets of resistance that may remain in the area.
The IDF doesn't really believe the war is going to end on Monday. And even if it officially does, according to another HaAretz article, it sounds like Hezbullah is going to continue to supply the IDF with reasons to continue the war:
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that the militant organization would abide by the UN cease-fire resolution but continue fighting as long as Israeli troops remained in south Lebanon.

"We will not be an obstacle to any (government) decision that it finds appropriate, but our ministers will express reservations about articles that we consider unjust and unfair."
YNet quotes Nasrallah even more explicitly:

'As long as there are Israeli soldiers on our soil we'll continue to fight them'
Israeli soldiers are not withdrawing from Lebanon tomorrow or Monday.


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