Haaretz reports the devastating news that Hezbollah has kidnapped two IDF soldiers in southern Lebanon:
Hezbollah kidnapped two Israel Defense Forces soldiers on the northern border in the midst of massive shelling attacks on Israel’s north Wednesday morning. The IDF confirmed two of its soldiers were missing on the Lebanese border, Channel 10 TV reported.
Hezbollah fighters attacked two IDF armored Hummer jeeps patrolling along the border with gunfire and explosives. The Hezbollah fighters nabbed two of the soldiers and wounded others in the Hummers.
Immediately following the Hezbollah attack, the organization’s Al-Manar television station began broadcasting clips calling on Israel to release Lebanese prisoners held in Israel. The Hezbollah demands emphasized the release of Lebanese militant Samir Al-Kuntar. Al-Manar also broadcast video clips of previous Palestinian and Lebanese attacks on IDF troops.
Two other Israelis were wounded when gunmen in Lebanon began pounding the IDF’s Zarit position and other posts along the border before 9 A.M. According to Al-Manar, Hezbollah kidnapped the two IDF soldiers at 9:05 A.M. and transferred them to a safe location.
The two Israelis were wounded either by mortar shells or rockets that slammed into Moshav Zarit. One was lightly to moderately wounded and the second was lightly wounded.
This could be Israel’s worst nightmare. Now, instead of fighting a one front war in Gaza to free its other IDF kidnap victim, it is now fighting a two front war. In addition, instead of fighting a war against Gaza’s Hamas militants alone, Israel now fights against Hezbollah and its sponsors, Syria and Iran. Part of this is no doubt Bashar Assad’s “payback” for insulting him by having Israeli jets buzz his summer mountain palace in one of Israel’s more bellicose acts of provocation. This new development ratchets up the pressure immensely on the world community to resolve this crisis and to do so soon if possible. The longer it drags on the more likely one of the parties will make a grievous error that could escalate matters out of anyone’s control.
The problem is now that the Arab militants hold the upper hand, they may no longer be so eager to agree to the deal which I write about below. The fact that the UN, the EU and particularly the U.S. placed the Gaza invasion on the back burner diplomatically until now is a shameful mark against them all. If they’d exerted half the energy of Hosni Mubarak and the Turkish government we might have had a more positive outcome and much more quickly.
Finally, this development points out the utter futility of the Omert government’s Gaza folly. If they’d negotiated the deal that they had in the offing instead of stalling for God knows what they might not be in the terrible bind they now face. Now, they are mired in Gaza as well as facing a crisis in the north. What will they do next? Invade southern Lebanon in order to free their two new hostages? The situation is quite impossible. If we thought the Olmert-Peretz-Halutz nexus was failing in their pursuit of a Gaza strategy imagine what they’ll do now that they have a double-barrel crisis before them.
Possible Deal for Shalit Confirmed by Khaled Meshal
I’ve been wrapped up for the past three days in a huge hornet’s nest Maryscott O’Connor and I stirred up at Daily Kos and have been away from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since then. Good to get back though I wish I had better and more hopeful news to report about the Shalit kidnapping and the Gaza invasion.
Ariga has his usual excellent post covering Khaled Meshal’s press conference yesterday in which he revealed the outline of a possible deal for the freedom of Gilad Shalit. Robert weaves together Meshal’s statements with what he’s been reading from Israeli cabinet ministers to present an optimistic and pessimistic scenario. First the optimistic one:
..>Speculation has the two sides, while blaming each other for the apparent stalemate, broadening the terms of reference for a deal from returning the Israeli soldier and ending the Qassams, into a much broader hudna, involving not only prisoner releases but other Israeli gestures of goodwill — if Hamas is prepared to take charge in Gaza, to prevent attacks on Israel. And added to the brew this morning by at least one report, is the possibility that somehow the final deal would include some form of closure of the case of Ron Arad, the Israeli jet navigator who fell into radical Islamic hands in Lebanon nearly 20 years ago and not heard from for 19 years.
But that’s the optimistic spin. It depends on some creative diplomatic move that seems beyond Israel’s capabilities to initiate, and beyond the power of the Europeans to implement. The Arabs involved in trying to solve the crisis — Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia — might have the ingenuity, but despite all the praise Olmert heaped on Mubarak, Israel won’t easily trust an Arab-devised solution. The Americans are likely going to hear from Abbas that he is eager to meet Olmert, while the Israeli prime minister will likely say no meeting is possible until the crisis over Shalit is solved.
But here’s the pessimistic version:
That leads to the pessimistic scenario, which various commentators note today essentially means a very lengthy — weeks if not months — of Israeli military operations, behind the scenes negotiations and occasional ‘infuriating and frustrating’ public posturing by spokesmen for the other side.
And of course, if the Gaza invasion continues that long there is almost a guarantee of a major public health crisis including food shortages and other brutally inhumane conditions imposed by Israel’s offensive operations:
Yedioth Aharonoth, Israel’s most widely distributed newspaper, blares this morning that the Gazans are out of food — and its commentator warns that a humanitarian crisis there could spoil the IDF’s operations, by forcing Israel to prematurely end the moves meant to squeeze Hamas. The government is beginning to feel the pressure to ease up…on the Palestinians. According to UNRWA, there’s enough food for ten days — but the real problem is that 50 percent of Gaza is without electricity and there’s no fuel for generators. In any case, emergency basic commodities — including fuel — were sent into Gaza today, but hardly enough for the 1.4 million people in the densely populated Strip.
The theory that enough pressure on the Palestinian population will make them rise against the militants has been proven wrong for the last six years, ever since the intifada began in the fall of 2000. But the IDF still believes in it, like most armies believing it has never been truly given a free hand to do what is necessary to reach the outcome the government wants.