Monday, July 17, 2006

Four-stage strategy

ANALYSIS from The Australian, July 17, 2006, by Abraham Rabinovich ...

THE fierce Israeli attack in Lebanon is following a carefully orchestrated plan, not yet half completed, that calls for four stages of mounting intensity, according to Israeli sources.

In the first stage, which began shortly after the Hezbollah incursion across the border last Wednesday, Israeli warplanes attacked missile caches in south Lebanon and elsewhere, particularly those housing long-range missiles. Fifty caches, some hidden underground and in private homes, were reportedly destroyed. It is unclear what percentage of the 13,000 missiles known to be in Hezbollah hands that accounts for. Meanwhile, artillery pounded Hezbollah positions and command posts from the Israeli side of the border. In this stage, the Israel Defence Forces also bombed Beirut airport and imposed a sea blockade to impress upon the Lebanese Government the consequences of having let Hezbollah freely attack Israel from southern Lebanon.

In the second stage, which began early on Friday, warplanes attacked the heart of Hezbollah power, shattering high-rise buildings in south Beirut housing the militia's command structure as well as the home of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who was reportedly trapped for a while in the underground command centre when the building above it collapsed.

The third and fourth stages are still secret. However, the sources said the operation calls for each of the four stages to be more powerful than the previous one. Another reported principle is that the targets are hit in a specified order that will not be deviated from in order to retaliate against Hezbollah attacks.

A constantly expanding "target bank" drawn up by the IDF, consisting of hundreds of sites, is approved at periodic meetings of a cabinet subcommittee chaired by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

One of the final stages, presumably, is the entry of ground forces into Lebanon. If Israel's main objectives -- a halt in the firing of missiles and a Lebanese agreement to displace Hezbollah from the border with Israel -- have not been achieved by the end of this week, ground troops will cross the border, the sources said. Israel is unenthusiastic about getting bogged down in a guerilla war in southern Lebanon, as it was for 18 years before 2000. But the head of operations on the IDF general staff, Brigadier General Gadi Eisencott, said at the weekend that any ground incursion would be limited in time and in the area affected. Israeli officials say the international community will not force Israel to stop before its goals are achieved.

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