No sooner was the ink dry on the UN Lebanon ceasefire resolution than Israel has already violated it:
Helicopter-borne Israeli commandos landed near the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek on Saturday and engaged in a lengthy firefight in what the Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, called a “flagrant violation” of the cease-fire brokered by the United Nations.
The United Nations issued a statement that Secretary General Kofi Annan also considered the raid a violation and was “deeply concerned.”
The Israelis said “the aim of the operation had been to disrupt terrorist activities against Israel and to prevent arms from being transported to Hezbollah from Iran and Syria.” Any such resupply effort would itself violate the Security Council cease-fire resolution.
The raid took place overnight under the cover of sonic booms from Israeli jets flying overhead, which occur often over Lebanon. But this time they masked the sound of helicopters bringing in the commando unit and two Humvee vehicles. Villagers said the soldiers were dressed in Lebanese Army uniforms.
The success of the effort was a matter of dispute. One Israeli special operations officer was killed and two commandos were wounded, one seriously, but an Israeli Army spokesman in Jerusalem said the “objectives had been attained in full.”
Villagers said otherwise. “They failed completely,” said Sadiq Hamdi, 36, a scrap-iron dealer. “They were still on the road when the Hezbollah came upon them. They did not take 1 percent of what they were trying to do.”
Sometimes I think I can almost understand the thinking, faulty as it might be, behind some Israeli strategic decisions. But I’m at a loss to explain the stupidity behind this raid. The only thing that comes to mind is that a wounded IDF somehow believed it could pull a rabbit out of a hat and have a triumphant raid and capture a senior Hezbollah commander (this was the goal according to a BBC World Service report last night). But it didn’t turn out that way. More miscalculations and rashly aggressive behavior got an IDF commando team into a nasty firefight with Hezbollah defenders. The Israelis lost at least one soldier and just barely escaped with their lives thanks to covering fire laid down by helicopter gunships. In a way, it’s amazing that the IDF succeeded in extracting these cowboys at all. Mission unaccomplished. And all they have to show for it is a dead soldier and failed mission.
All of which makes it appear that Israel and the IDF have endless reservoirs of delusion propping up their faulty strategic thinking. The army is rapidly coming to see that Hezbollah is not Hamas. You can’t bully your way into the Bekaa like you can in Gaza. And if you try to you will pay for it in blood. In Gaza, Israel has barely been made to pay a price for its brutal military actions. The only price seems to be the shame and sympathy engendered by world opinion at the deaths of scores of civilians caught up in botched military operations.
I’ve written elsewhere here saying that Israel only honors international agreements it signs when it is in its interest. It thinks nothing of violating such previously approved documents and it did so with impunity yesterday. Here is its “defense:”
The Israeli Army said it would continue such raids until “proper monitoring bodies are established on the Lebanese borders,”…On Friday, a top Israeli commander warned that Israel would halt any resupply efforts and vowed to kill the Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.
You’ll recall that the ceasefire document does NOT arrogate to Israel the right to engage in such military activity. Rather, it is entitled to defensive actions to protect its troops. So much for Israel rewriting UN resolutions after the fact to suit their own interests and interpretations. And if Israel did assassinate Nasrallah I’m afraid we’d see all out war against that nation. No missile would be held back even from hitting Tel Aviv. Then Israel would have the excuse it needed for a war of extermination against Hezbollah. But it would be ten or twenty times as costly as the most recent fighting. In short, it would be a true disaster for both sides.
The Times quotes the mayor of Baalbek for the local version of the raid:
Suleiman Chamas, 38, the mayor of this village about 10 miles west of Baalbek, gave the following account.
The disguised commandos landed in the eastern foothills of the Mount Lebanon range, loaded into Humvees and drove east on a road called Ayoun Semman, where they encountered a roadblock guarded by local Hezbollah fighters.
The commandos shouted in Arabic, “Peace be with you, we’re one of yours,” and tried to pass the roadblock without stopping. The guerrillas started shooting and chased them. The commandos turned onto a dirt road, and a gun battle broke out, drawing more villagers.
“The whole village came down, both those who could shoot and those who cannot,” Mayor Chamas said.
Fighter jets and helicopters fired rockets and, within about 40 minutes, evacuated the commandos, he said. Left behind were two fresh craters in the rich red Bekaa Valley soil, signs of casualties — large bloodstains, syringes and surgical masks — and what the villagers said was some kind of device to guide the helicopters. Villagers reported no casualties on the Lebanese side.
Yahya Ali, 30, wearing a red shirt and carrying an AK-47 assault rifle, was one of a number of villagers who said the Israeli commandos had been dressed like Lebanese soldiers.
He said they had been wearing the mostly green woodland camouflage uniforms that are standard issue for the Lebanese Army, along with olive-green flak jackets and green helmets, also standard issue. Israeli soldiers wear a solid brownish uniform with brown body armor and helmets.
Mr. Ali said he could see the uniform clearly because in the rescue the helicopters and Humvees had bright lights turned on.
The boldness of the raid during the truce suggested the Israelis might have had some major objective in mind, perhaps the rescue of their two captured comrades or the capture of a major Hezbollah figure. Boudai is the home village of Sheik Muhammad Yazbeck, a senior Hezbollah leader and member of the group’s Shura Council. The Israeli Army later said it had not captured him and denied his capture was the objective, The Associated Press reported.
Based on this story, I simply do not believe the Israeli cover version declaring that their aim was to disrupt weapons transfers from Syria to Hezbollah. The raid is another waste of whatever shred of international credibility Israel has left (not much I admit). The thinking that engendered this raid merely confirms the utter bankruptcy of Israeli military and political poicy toward its neighbors. At this rate, peace may not come till Hell freezes over (if then). And much blood will be spilled futilely in the meantime.
If you were France wouldn’t you feel your decision not to lead the UN Lebanon peacekeeping mission was a wise one after this raid? And if you were considering participating, wouldn’t this give you pause? Israel says it awaits a fully operational monitoring capability, yet it does all in its power to discourage such an enterprise from ever happening. Israel, when it does things like this, acts as if there are no consequences to its actions. But there are. When you act with impunity on the world stage, the rest of world loses sympathy and interest in your cause. And such indifference could be fatal in Israel’s case.