Saturday, July 22, 2006

Lebanon Updates

12:11 pm CDT: 117 Katyusha rockets and counting have hit northern Israel today. The Lebanese city of Tyre is suffering Israeli attacks -- their medical supplies are running low. Israeli troops are making brief incursions as much to investigate Hezbollah defenses as to destroy them; they seek a half-mile buffer zone. Israel has massed its forces on the border, but have said no general invasion is imminent. The Lebanese who have not fled are claiming they will fight any Israeli invasion. The deadline the Israelis gave civilians to leave southern Lebanon passed a few hours ago. (Live from CNN.)

12:51 pm CDT: Two reports from DEBKAfile at Israpundit. First, a report that Israeli special forces are operating in the Bekaa valley to prevent Hezbollah resupply. Second, a report that Syria is on high alert and has had its Scud missile arsenal targeted at Israel since Thursday, "took control of Lebanon War". As its DEBKAfile, the report may come from a legitimate military source, or may come from an overheated Israeli sergeant repeating the latest rumors.

The New York Times reports that the U.S. is speeding bomb deliveries to Israel, which may indicate preparations for wider war. (Also via Israpundit.)

Hezbollah, to the shock of none, has rejected U.S. calls for an international force along the Israel-Lebanon border. They are also promising, again, surprises for Israel.

1:45 pm CDT: Hezbollah fired on an Israeli military base in northern Israel, wounding one soldier. Israel bombed communications centers in northern Lebanon.

Israeli Major-General Benny Gantz said the raid on the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras was successfully completed: "In summary, it can be said that the area of Maroun al-Ras, that had served as a (Hizbollah) vantage point over Avivim, now serves as an (Israeli) vantage point over Bint Jbail."

2:59 pm CDT: Over 160 Katyusha's hit Israel on Saturday, wounding 17.

Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas have reached a cease fire agreement for Gaza. The Palestinian President has agreed undertake futile efforts to dissuade Palestinian terrorists who haven't listened to him for months from launching kassam rockets into Israel.

7:49 pm CDT: The deal mentioned above is more complex than first reported. It not only involves a cease fire, it includes the release of Gilad Shalit. From Haaretz:

Senior Fatah sources in Gaza said on Saturday Hamas is ready to accept a deal that involves freeing abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, a joint cease-fire and an end to IDF actions in the Gaza Strip.

What is not clear is whether Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader in Damascus, will sanction the Egyptian-brokered deal.

The initiative, proposed by Egypt and discussed by Palestinian leaders in Gaza in the last few days, consists of freeing Gilad Shalit, a joint cease-fire and the cessation of the IDF's assassinations in the Gaza Strip and freeing Palestinian prisoners later on.

The militant groups are still resisting the cease fire, however, and Meshal is still in either Syria or Iran, and not likely to be interested in a deal offers a respite for both the Israeli military and Israeli civilians.

8:14 pm CDT: YNet has more about Maroun al-Ras and on Israel's next steps:
The IDF prepared Saturday night to boost ground operations in south Lebanon villages, with the aim of "cleaning out" Hizbullah strongholds. The IDF has already taken control of the village Marun a-Ras north of Avivim in the eastern sector, as well as a few other Lebanese villages known to harbor Hizbullah infrastructure. Currently, the IDF is moving in with fire and surveillance on Bint Jabel, which is considered to be the "Hizbullah capital".


On Saturday the Herev battalion operated in Marwahin, about two kilometers into southeast Lebanon, and discovered a great deal of Hizbullah weapons there. While forces were operating, shells were fired at them from a neighboring village. The Air Force was prepared to back up troops operating on the ground. After difficult battles the army also took control of Marun a-Ras.


[Battalion commander Lt. Col.] Wajadee said the terrorists used sites in the village to survey and collect information on Israeli communities across the border. An 80-year-old Lebanese man, who remained nearly alone in the town, told soldiers that residents did not cooperate with Hizbullah, but Hizbullah forced themselves on the village and used the residents in operations against Israel.

From Pajamas Media. Perhaps Bint Jabel is what the reserve troops are for. The issue now is whether rousting Hezbollah from that town will constitute sufficient proof of an invasion to trigger the entry of other forces.

10:56 pm CDT: For days now Hassan Nasrallah has claimed that Israeli's should expect "surprises", and I've always treated them like Nazi claims in 1945 that Hitler had a secret weapon that would end the war, as mere empty bluster.

But Israpundit reports that Hezbollah may have obtained spent nuclear fuel rods from Iran and used the radioactive material in missile warheads. The report comes from Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin ($ required). If anything would bring the conflagration everyone fears it would be a dirty bomb, on the tip of an Iranian built missile or otherwise.

The salient question, of course, is whether Iran's nuclear program is mature enough to have produced a sufficient amount of radioactive material for that purpose, and if so, whether they could have transferred it to Hezbollah.

11:20 pm CDT: The Washington Post reports that Israel will accept the existence of Hezbollah so long as it sheds its military wing and abandons extremism. Israel's acceptence of Hezbollah is unlikely to be reciprocated, and that Muslim intransigence is the essential problem in the Middle East.
"To the extent that it remains a political group, it will be acceptable to Israel," Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon said yesterday in the strongest sign to date that the Israelis are rethinking the scope and ultimate goals of the campaign. "A political group means a party that is engaged in the political system in Lebanon, but without terrorism capabilities and fighting capabilities. That will be acceptable to Israel."


"If we get rid of the missiles, then we have solved the problem of Israel," a senior European official said, "and Hezbollah will continue to exist as a political force."

YNet has more on the supposed cease fire in Gaza.

The Haaretz news wire reports that as Katyusha's fall on northern Israel yet another day, Syria has announced a willingness to enter talks with the U.S. to "defuse" the crisis in Lebanon.

For some reason, I've been unable to access the Jerusalem Post for the last several hours. That newspaper's feed also appears to be dead at Israpundit's headline page.


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