The IDF today endured the highest number of dead since the Lebanon invasion began in the fight for the Hezbollah stronghold of Bint Jbail. It lost eight soldiers today [Al Arabiya reports 14 dead] [UPDATE: Haaretz now reports 9 killed] and 22 wounded, an extraordinarily high casualty rate for Israeli military actions. And keep in mind that only yesterday the IDF said it had the town under its control. Even the town of Maroun al-Ras, which the army supposedly took last week, has seen renewed fighting. Guerrilla wars do tend to get a lot messier than a conventional army expects.
At the beginning of the conflict Israel said it intended to eliminate Hezbollah. Alternately, it said it intended to forcibly disarm the group or at least have the world do this for it. But Hezbollah is proving a far more capable and resilient guerrilla fighter than the IDF anticipated:
Israeli officers on the border said there were thousands of soldiers in the south of the country engaged in very heavy fighting. Soldiers involved in the battle say that Hezbollah is dug in deeply, and its fighters have shown a willingness to die. Most of the Israeli casualties have come from ambushes, trapping tanks under intense fire and making rescue operations difficult, they said.
“This is a conflict which will take some time,” said Gen. Benny Ganz, the chief of the northern command, who is directing ground operations. He described the environment around Bint Jbeil in Lebanon, where the bulk of the fighting took place today, as “harsh,” calling the Hezbollah a well-trained military organization.
Only now does the IDF recognize this?
Does anyone hear an echo of the U.S. battle against the Iraqi insurgents? Bush thought that when we won the initial battle against Saddam that the war was over. Little did he credit the insurgents with the ability to make life a sheer hell for the U.S. occupation. And only 2,500 U.S. military dead-later have we come to feel the pain of Bush’s folly-filled miscalculation. The IDF has made the same fatal error in discounting Hezbollah.
And if Israel thinks that it can eliminate or disarm Hezbollah without its consent it’s living in cloud-cuckoo land. That goes for Condi Rice too who seems to believe we can “fix” Lebanon without the direct participation of two of the key players, Syria and Hezbollah. It’s simply a ridiculous notion.
Robert Rosenberg gives a candid assessment of the IDF’s failures during the Lebanon campaign and the toll it is taking within Israel in terms of the public’s perception of the operation:
…A series of Israeli failures on the battlefield, mounting international media criticism of the Israeli retaliations against Hizbollah for the intense rocketing of northern Israel, and a forboding sense that the national consensus in favor of the war won’t hold up if the army is not able to demonstrate its supposed superiority over the Shiite guerrilla group, is undermining Israeli confidence.
There have been too many accidents and failures by the IDF, starting with the original Hizbollah ambush two weeks ago today that captured two soldiers and sparked the Israeli decision to ‘change the rules.’ In Bint Jebayel, the IDF appears to have been surprised by as many as hundred or more Hizbollah fighters, who conducted a highly coordinated ambush of Israeli troops from the Golani brigade.
Unlike many Israelis who wholeheartedly support the war, I think this breakdown of consensus in support of the Lebanon invasion is a good thing because it will mean Israel will extricate itself and its forces from quagmire that much sooner.
IDF Kills 4 UNIFIL Peacekeepers at Khiam
Has anyone noticed the irony of Israel calling for an international peacekeeping force to police its border with Lebanon while at the same time it attacks to devastating effect the international peacekeeping force, UNIFIL, that is currently in place there?
An Israeli air strike killed four United Nations military observers at their base in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, the United Nations said.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on Israel to investigate the “apparently deliberate targeting” of the base.
“This coordinated artillery and aerial attack on a long established and clearly marked U.N. post at Khiam occurred despite personal assurances given to me by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that U.N. positions would be spared Israeli fire,” Annan said in a statement issued at U.N. headquarters in New York.
U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe said at U.N. headquarters in New York: “I can confirm that the four military observers that came under attack in Khiam were killed in that attack…
A spokesman for the UNIFIL peacekeeping force in Lebanon said rescue teams rushed to the peacekeepers base, which appears to have collapsed while the U.N. observers were in the shelter.
“One aerial bomb directly impacted the building and shelter in the base of the United Nations Observer Group in Lebanon in the area of Khiam,” said spokesman Milos Strugar.
“A UNIFIL dispatched rescue team which is on the spot is still unable to clear the rubble.”
Today, the UN has released further information about its frantic and failed efforts to secure the safety of the Khiam observer post: