Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Strategic Assessment of the Hizballah War:Defeating the Iranian-Syrian Axis in Lebanon

From the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Institute for Contemporary Affairs founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation) JERUSALEM ISSUE BRIEF, Vol. 6, No. 2, 19 July 2006, by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror and Dan Diker.... [Follow this link for the full article] ....
  • Israel's current military operations to uproot Hizballah and to destroy it as a formidable military and terror organization is not merely an operation against another determined terror group like Hamas in Gaza. Hizballah has a disciplined, well-trained army with sophisticated weaponry, backed directly by Syria and Iran.
  • A high-level Iranian official recently emphasized to Western diplomats in London Hizballah's importance to Iran: "Hizballah is one of the pillars of our security strategy, and forms Iran's first line of defense against Israel." Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Druze leader, shares this perspective: "The war is no longer Lebanon' is an Iranian war. Iran is telling the United States: You want to fight me in the Gulf and destroy my nuclear program? I will hit you at home, in Israel."
  • Iran's Revolutionary Guards provide the majority of Hizballah's weaponry, financing, instruction, and strategic command and control. Hizballah's short- and medium-range missiles are manufactured in Iran and exported to Lebanon via the Damascus International Airport. Iranian officers from the Revolutionary Guards are on the ground in Lebanon, playing active roles in supervising terror actions and training Hizballah operatives to launch rockets against Israel.
  • Hizballah is nothing less than an extension of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Iran has taken a strategic decision to activate Hizballah terror against Israel in order to preclude the United States and its Western allies from stopping Iran's nuclear development program.
  • The only way to defeat an insurgency is to first isolate it from external reinforcement. Israel is seeking to cut off Hizballah from Syria and Iran and isolate it from the rest of Lebanon. Israel must carry out its current military operation against Hizballah until it is fully neutralized and disarmed. It would be nothing short of catastrophic for both Israel and the international community if diplomatic efforts result in Israel being forced to end its military operation prematurely.

Hizballah Has No Red Lines
.... Since Israel's overnight unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, Hizballah built itself into a deterrent military force possessing 13,000 to 15,000 short- and medium-range missiles.....Hizballah - the "Party of God" - has no red lines. Any strategic strike that it can execute, it will execute....

Israel's Response
... Hizballah, Syria, and Iran were taken by surprise by the sheer magnitude and intensity of Israel's response to the missile attacks and kidnapping. Nasrallah did not understand what causes a democratic country to act harshly when its red lines are crossed and its citizens are threatened, as Israelis are today. ....

Iran's Role
... a high-level Iranian official .... emphasized Hizballah's importance to Iran: "Hizballah is one of the pillars of our security strategy, and forms Iran's first line of defense against Israel. We reject [the claim] that it must be disarmed."

... Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Druze leader, shares this perspective: "The war is no longer Lebanon' is an Iranian war. Iran is telling the United States: You want to fight me in the Gulf and destroy my nuclear program? I will hit you at home, in Israel."

Hizballah is not an independent actor. Iran's Revolutionary Guards provide the majority of Hizballah's weaponry, financing, instruction, and strategic command and control. Most of Hizballah's terrorist weaponry, particularly short- and medium-range missiles - including the Zalzal missile that can reach as far as Tel Aviv, 150 kilometers from Israel's northern border - are manufactured in Iran and exported to Lebanon via the Damascus International Airport.

Weaponry and materiel are then openly transported by truck convoys to Hizbullah in Lebanon.
According Israeli intelligence, Iranian officers from the Revolutionary Guards are on the ground in Lebanon, playing active roles in supervising terror actions and training Hizballah operatives to launch rockets against Israel.

On July 14, Hizbullah fired an Iranian copy of a Chinese C-802 Kowthar missile at an Israeli warship, killing four crew members. These rockets have been in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' arsenal for four or five years.

Some of Hizballah's weaponry is manufactured by Syria and is provided to the terror organization at the direct order of President Bashar Assad. The rockets in the first barrage that struck the northern city of Haifa on July 16, killing eight Israelis, were manufactured and supplied by Syria. Other medium-range Syrian and Iranian missiles are also in Hizballah's stockpile but have yet to be used against Israel.

Dimensions of the Conflict
On a macro level, there are three dimensions to the current war against Hizballah:
... it is abundantly clear that Israel cannot allow Hizballah to return to its former positions in southern Lebanon. The Lebanese army must be deployed to ensure that southern Lebanon remains free of Hizballah control.

Second, Hizballah cannot be allowed to be the driving force that decides, whenever it so chooses, together with its Syrian and Iranian patrons, to inflame the Middle East. In this sense, Israel's current war in Lebanon is not punitive; it is strategic. The Israeli air force has struck the main arteries for the transfer of weapons to Hizballah from Syria and Iran through Beirut International Airport, all Lebanese seaports, and across the Beirut-Damascus highway from the east, which has served as one of Hizballah's main lines of weapons transport....

... Thus, Hizballah is being cut off from Syria and Iran and isolated from the rest of Lebanon. Hizballah has waged an insurgency against Israel from the mini-state it has created inside of Lebanon. The only way to defeat an insurgency is to first isolate it from external reinforcement. That is what Israel is seeking to do.

In a second phase, the insurgency must be disarmed. In this regard, the international community must enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1559 that imposes the obligations of state sovereignty and responsibility on Lebanon to force the Hizballah to disarm, as even French President Jacques Chirac has demanded.

The third and broader dimension of the escalating conflict is that Hizballah is nothing less than an extension of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Iran has taken a strategic decision to activate Hizballah terror against Israel in order to preclude the United States and its Western allies from stopping Iran's nuclear development program. The uprooting of Hizballah's military capacity will neutralize one of Iran's most dangerous and valuable deterrent threats against any country that attempts to act against Tehran's nuclear weapons program.

The Stakes for Israel and the West
Israel must carry out its current military operation against Hizballah until it is fully neutralized, disarmed, and unable to serve as Iran's long "arm" that can bring terror upon Israel and destabilize the Middle East region at will. The current Israeli victims of Hizballah terror will not have sacrificed their lives in vain if Israel conducts its war to an uncompromising victory. However, if Hizballah is allowed to remain a military force in Lebanon or even an armed presence in southern Lebanon, Israel will have indeed sacrificed its soldiers and citizens in vain, and will also suffer similar attacks in the future.

Furthermore, it is a primary interest of the international community that Hizballah be fully neutralized as a military extension of Iran. Only a full victory against Hizballah will allow the possibility for Lebanon to emerge as a free and democratic country. This is also in line with the Bush Administration's vision of helping the peoples of the Middle East to free themselves of tyrannical and fundamentalist elements and prevent the threat to the region of a nuclear Iran.

This underscores the regional and international importance of Israel's current mission.
Any Syrian or Iranian forces or advisors in Lebanon are legitimate targets for Israel. Israel must send a clear message to Bashar Assad that it will not accept any Syrian interference in Lebanon. However, while Israel should not open up a front against Syria at this juncture, if Syrian forces show any type of movement, Israel must be ready to engage them.

The duration of the current war depends on Israel, Lebanon, and the international community. .... the war does not have to last very long. But if Israel is pressured to stop its operations, this acute conflict will indeed last a long time.

... if Israel's air force fails to stop Hizballah rocket assaults, Israel may be forced to send in substantial ground forces to control the areas from which rockets are being launched. This real possibility would have far-reaching implications in terms of potential losses for the IDF and for the citizens of Lebanon.

No less significant is Israel's readiness to absorb damage to its home front. ...Israel is showing great fortitude and national will.

Iran's Ongoing War Against the West
Even if Israel is successful in destroying the Hizballah infrastructure, Iran will not be deterred in its ongoing war against the West, for Hizballah's attacks on Israel represent Iran's strategic decision to launch what it sees as a counter-offensive against the West following America's post 9/11 attacks on the regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. ..... if Hizballah is neutralized in the current conflict, Iran will have lost a major asset in its ongoing struggle against the West.

The Diplomatic Front
In order to achieve its war objectives, Israel must succeed on the diplomatic front in addition to the battlefield. It would be nothing short of catastrophic for both Israel and the international community if diplomatic efforts result in Israel being forced to end its military operation prematurely. Furthermore, it is incumbent on the international community, which last year demanded that the Syrian army withdraw from Lebanon, to provide the necessary assistance to Lebanon that will ensure that Hizballah is disbanded as a military force, and this must be the highest international priority.
* * *

Follow this link for the full article.

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, Program Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs, is former commander of the IDF's National Defense College and the IDF Staff and Command College. He is also the former head of the IDF's research and assessment division, with special responsibility for preparing the National Intelligence Assessment. In addition, he served as the military secretary of the Minister of Defense.

Dan Diker is a senior policy analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and heads its Defensible Borders Initiative. He also serves as Knesset correspondent and analyst for the Israel Broadcasting Authority's English News.

Some good may come of this ...

From Ynet News, 21/7/06, from Associated Press ...

US Secretary of State rules out quick cease-fire as ‘false promise,’ says ‘Syria knows what it needs to do, Hizbullah is the source of the problem.’ Israeli ambassador to US: This is a war not of our choosing

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, heading for a weekend trip to the troubled Middle East, said Friday she would work with allies in the region to help create conditions for "stability and lasting peace." She ruled out a quick cease-fire as a "false promise" and defended her decision not to talk to officials from Hizbullah or Syria. "Syria knows what it needs to do and Hizbullah is the source of the problem," Rice said at the State Department as she outlined US hopes for a diplomatic solution to the current crisis. Rice said she was meeting not only with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert but also with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as well as with allies at a gathering in Rome.

...Rice said the United States was committed to ending the bloodshed, but didn't want to do it before certain conditions were met. The United States has said all along that Hizbullah must first turn over the two Israeli soldiers who were captured and stop firing missiles into Israel. "We do seek an end to the current violence, we seek it urgently. We also seek to address the root causes of that violence," she said. "A cease-fire would be a false promise if it simply returns us to the status quo."

...Talking to reporters aboard Air Force One as Bush was en route to an appearance in Colorado, she said the idea was "to provide the president and Dr. Rice a chance to continue to strategize with a key partner in the region on a diplomatic solution that will address the root causes of violence and terror in the region."

... United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and .... called Thursday for an immediate cease-fire, that is opposed by the United States. The Bush administration says the United States and the UN agree on the wider diplomatic goals for the region.

The United States has resisted international pressure to lean on its ally Israel to halt the fighting. Rice was likely try to point the way to a relatively quick cease-fire, but not an immediate one. She is expected in Israel on Tuesday, Israeli officials said on condition of anonymity because the schedule was not yet confirmed.

.... The Rice initiative likely would be designed to give the United States a major role in brokering peace there. She is not expected to try to get a signed deal during her brief visit, however, and she risks laying out the U.S. goals only to have either side refuse to bargain.

Annan outlined the basic terms of a proposed cease-fire and the longer-range goals to remove the Hizbullah threat in southern Lebanon in a speech on Thursday.... The UN and US plan for long-term stability would give international help to the Beirut government to expel Hizbullah and install its own Army troops, something it has been unable to do on its own.....

Ground operations in Lebanon

From Ynet News, 21/7/06, by Hanan Greenberg ...

.... IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said Friday that the IDF was likely to launch ground operations in Lebanon. “We will fight terrorism anywhere it is, and we will also carry out limited ground operations,” Halutz said during a press briefing in Tel Aviv Friday. He noted that a significant amount of Hizbullah terror infrastructure was damaged, and close to 100 Hizbullah operatives were killed – “on every rank and level.”

Despite the extensive Air Force operations, the air force alone cannot complete all of the operations demanded to defeat Hizbullah, the army chief hinted. “A jet cannot plant a flag,” Halutz said. “Sometimes a soldier has to look the enemy in the eye and fight him.”

“This conflict was forced upon us – we didn’t choose it. Terror activity is what brought us there. We withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon not planning to go back. But this cannot be used against us. We will fight terrorism wherever it is. Because if we don’t fight it, it will fight us. If we don’t reach it first, it will reach us.”

According to Halutz, “The restraint we showed during the years was interpreted by the enemy as weakness. I think that in this matter, they made a grave mistake – in assuming that we would persevere in abstention and restraint. Now we must bite our lip and continue the mission to restore our safety...."

...Halutz detailed how Hizbullah built up its infrastructure over the years, and presented a short film illustrating how terrorists use religious institutions to store weapons. “Hizbullah, which gained control in Lebanon, planned for long-term war. It built infrastructure, armed itself and trained solely to attack the State of Israel and had no other purpose whatsoever. The battle against it costs a high price. The fact that they won’t publish the number of their operatives killed or their names, the fact they feed lies to the press, have no bearing on the reality.

“The IDF damaged and will continue to damage terror infrastructure in the heart of Beirut and in the Lebanon valley, in the south as well as in central Lebanon. We are operating against rocket infrastructure, against Hizbullah fighters everywhere and always. Many launchers were hit and infrastructure was damaged. Close to 100 Hizbullah terrorists from all levels and ranks were killed. We won’t publish the names we know. We will leave it to them to publish the names.”

The IDF was boosting troop presence along the northern border over the weekend. In addition to the Galilee Division deployed there, thousands more soldiers, including reservists, were arriving in the north.

On Friday morning the army also called up additional reserves soldiers to reinforce positions across the country and free up the active-duty forces to be sent up north.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Iran Against the Arabs

From Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2006by Michael Rubin ...

After Hamas kidnapped 19-year-old Cpl. Gilad Shalit on June 25, Israeli forces launched an assault on Gaza to win his release. Arab condemnation was swift. Saudi Arabia's pro-government al-Jazira daily called Israel "a society of terrorists." Egypt's state-controlled al-Gumhuriyah condemned Israel's "heinous crimes" in Gaza. Following a July 8 meeting in Tehran, foreign ministers from countries neighboring Iraq denounced the "brutal Israeli attacks."

The crisis escalated four days later when Hezbollah terrorists infiltrated Israel's northern border and kidnapped two soldiers. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the raid "an act of war," and directed the military to launch an all-out assault on Hezbollah and targets throughout Lebanon. Neither Lebanese nor regional reaction to the opening of a second front was what Hezbollah expected..... No longer subject to Syrian occupation, Lebanese officials spoke freely. The Middle East Media Research Institute translated many reactions. "Lebanon . . . is not willing to be the spearhead of the Arab-Israeli conflict," former President Amin Gemayel said. "Hezbollah will have to explain itself to the Lebanese," Druze leader Walid Jumblatt told Le Figaro. The independent Beirut daily Al-Mustaqbal quoted Lebanese Communications Minister Marwan Hamada saying, "Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara gives the commands, Hezbollah carries them out, and Lebanon is the hostage."

Nor did the wider Arab world rally in unanimity toward Hezbollah. "A distinction must be made between legitimate resistance and uncalculated adventures undertaken by elements [without] . . . consulting and coordinating with Arab nations," the official Saudi Press Agency opined. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit included Hezbollah rocket attacks in his condemnation of terrorism. Even the Arab League, which seldom misses an opportunity to denounce Israel, offered only muted criticism. True, League Secretary General Amr Moussa condemned Israel's "disproportionate attack," after the July 15 meeting, but rather than just slam the Jewish state, Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, chided Hezbollah's "unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts." Delegates from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and the UAE backed Mr. al-Faisal. Ahmed al-Jarallah, editor of Kuwait's Arab Times, condemned both Hezbollah and Hamas in an editorial that same day, writing, "Unfortunately we must admit that in such a war the only way to get rid of 'these irregular phenomena' is what Israel is doing."

It may be tempting to think that acceptance of Israel is in the air. But such optimism is unfounded. There is no change of heart in Riyadh, Cairo or Kuwait. Saudi princes still finance Palestinian terror. Rather, the recent Arab tolerance toward Israel's predicament and condemnation of Hezbollah signal recognition of a greater threat on the horizon. Wadi Batti Hanna, a columnist in Iraq's Arab nationalist al-Ittijah al-Akhar daily, put it bluntly when, on July 15, he asked, "How long will the Arabs continue to fight on behalf of Iran?"

The Iranian menace is rising. Condoleezza Rice's May 31 announcement that the Bush administration would engage Iran signaled U.S. weakness across the Middle East. "Why don't you admit that you are weak and your razor is blunt?" Iranian Supreme Leader asked rhetorically four days later, as assembled crowds in Tehran called for America's death. An Iranian Revolutionary Guards boat recently unveiled a banner reading, "U.S. cannot do a damn thing," as it sailed past a U.S. navy ship in the Persian Gulf. Tehran's confidence is high.
Even as Arab states routinely condemn U.S. foreign policy, they embrace the American umbrella.

John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt, respectively of the University of Chicago and Harvard, may argue that "the Israel Lobby" perverts U.S. interests; but Arab leaders understand that the only countries the U.S. military has fought to protect in the Middle East were Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The tiny Gulf emirates are defenseless without U.S. protection. There is hardly a state on the Arabian Peninsula that does not train with the U.S. military or welcome a small U.S. presence. But with U.S. congressmen proclaiming the defeat and vulnerability of U.S. troops in Iraq, and the Islamic Republic drawing closer to its nuclear goals, Tehran's stock is rising at U.S. expense.

The signs of Arab unease have been growing over the last 18 months. Jordan's King Abdullah II first raised alarm. In a Dec. 12, 2004 interview with Chris Matthews, he warned that the rise of Iranian-backed Shiite parties in Iraq could give rise to a Shiite "crescent" stretching from Iran to Lebanon. Abdulaziz Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, called Abdullah's comments "ridiculous," but the remarks resonated in Arab countries. True, the Shiites might account for only 10% of the world's Muslims, but in the volatile region stretching from the eastern Mediterranean to Iran, the Sunnis and Shiites are near parity. That Shiites predominate in the oil-producing regions not only of Iran and Iraq but also in Saudi Arabia accelerates the fears. Satellite stations throw fuel on the fire. A July 12 political cartoon in the Iraqi daily al-Mutamar depicted a man pouring gasoline labeled sectarianism into a satellite dish.

The power of satellite stations to inflame sectarian passion is extraordinary. I was in Sweileh, Jordan, as news broke last November that Iraqi Shiite militias had tortured Sunni prisoners in detention. Al-Jazeera replayed the footage in gory detail. Cafes hushed and men shouted abuse at the TV screens. More recently, al-Jazeera amplified Osama bin Laden's July 1 Internet message blaming "the people of the [Shiite] south" for violating Sunni cities like Ramadi, Fallujah and Mosul. The situation worsened when Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen rampaged through the mixed Hay al-Jihad neighborhood on July 9, demanding identity cards and killing anyone with a Sunni name.

Most Arabs perceive Israel as small. Egypt -- home to one of every three Arabs -- has enjoyed a cold peace with Israel for more than a quarter-century. Gulf states, on the whole, would rather make money than directly fight Israel. While they do not like Israel's existence, Jerusalem presents no threat. Not so Tehran. A giant with 70 million people, Iran is no status quo power. Its ideological commitment to export revolution is real. Across Lebanon and the region, Arab leaders see Hezbollah for what it is: An arm of Iranian influence waging a sectarian battle in the heart of the Middle East.

An old Arab proverb goes, "Me against my brother; me and my brother against our cousin; and me, my brother and my cousin against the stranger." Forced to make a choice, Sunni Arabs are deciding: The Jews are cousins; the Shiites, strangers. U.S. diplomats may applaud the new pragmatism, but the reason behind it is nothing to celebrate.

Mr. Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is editor of the Middle East Quarterly. of World War

From NBC's "Meet the Press on Sunday" 16/6/06 (transcript of a the TV programme) ...

.... And now, joining us in Washington, Democratic senator Joe Biden, former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Welcome, both.

Mr. Speaker, what are we witnessing in the Middle East?

MR. NEWT GINGRICH: Well, let me, let me offer three observations. First, this is not the fifth day of the war. This is the 58th year of the effort by those who want to destroy Israel. As Ahmadinejad, the head of Iran, says, he wants to defeat the Americans and eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. So we should not see this event in isolation. ....

Second, the Israelis withdrew from Gaza to create the circumstance of peace. The Israelis withdrew from south Lebanon to create the circumstance of peace. They now have a thousand missiles fired from Gaza, they’ve had hundreds of missiles fired from south Lebanon. You clearly have Iranian involvement, there are at least 400 Iranian guards in south Lebanon. Apparently it was an Iranian missile fired by Iranians which hit an Israeli warship yesterday.

The United States should be saying to Syria and Iran, “South Lebanon is going to be cleared out. We are for Israel and the Lebanese government breaking the back of Hezbollah, getting rid of all 10,000 to 13,000 missiles, and we will decisively stop any effort by Syria and Iran to intervene.”

I mean, this is absolutely a question of the survival of Israel, but it’s also a question of what is really a world war. Look what you’ve been covering: North Korea firing missiles. We say there’ll be consequences, there are none. The North Koreans fire seven missiles on our Fourth of July; bombs going off in Mumbai, India; a war in Afghanistan with sanctuaries in Pakistan. As I said a minute ago, the, the Iran/Syria/Hamas/Hezbollah alliance. A war in Iraq funded largely from Saudi Arabia and supplied largely from Syria and Iran. The British home secretary saying that there are 20 terrorist groups with 1200 terrorists in Britain. Seven people in Miami videotaped pledging allegiance to al-Qaeda, and 18 people in Canada being picked up with twice the explosives that were used in Oklahoma City, with an explicit threat to bomb the Canadian parliament, and saying they’d like to behead the Canadian prime minister. And finally, in New York City, reports that in three different countries people were plotting to destroy the tunnels of New York.

I mean, we, we are in the early stages of what I would describe as the third world war, and frankly, our bureaucracies aren’t responding fast enough, we don’t have the right attitude about this, and this is the 58th year of the war to destroy Israel. And frankly, the Israelis have every right to insist that every single missile leave south Lebanon and that the United States ought to be helping the Lebanese government have the strength to eliminate Hezbollah as a military force, not as a political force in the parliament, but as a military force in south Lebanon.

MR. GINGRICH: I, I believe if you take all the countries I just listed, that you’ve been covering, put them on a map, look at all the different connectivity, you’d have to say to yourself this is, in fact, World War III.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, is it our war?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): Indirectly, it’s our war. It seems to me it’s partially our responsibility. I don’t, I don’t agree with the World War III analogy, but I do believe that here we had Israel get out of southern Lebanon. I was there for that election, I was “an official observer.” All the talk from everyone in the parties in Lebanon, that they had to get rid of Hezbollah. The, the U.N. Resolution 1559 said that the—that as, as Israel got out, the, the army of the Lebanese people were going to move and take over that responsibility, they didn’t.

But I might add that we didn’t do anything to help them. We didn’t do anything at the time to help train them. We didn’t do anything at the time to give any attention to it. And now we are, because of our lack of a prevention strategy, we’re left with no option here, in my view, but to support Israel in what is a totally legitimate self-defense effort. How can they, in fact, sit still when they have all these rockets that are very sophisticated sitting on their border, knowing they’re being—going to be fired at them and expect to stand there and the rest of the world sitting around?

And the last point I’ll make, Tim, is I find it fascinating people talk about has Israel gone too far. No one talks about whether Israel’s justified in the first place. Let’s assume Israel’s overreacting. I want to see the world stand up and say, “By the way, this in fact, is an unprovoked effort on the part of a terrorist organization supported by two countries to undermine the democratic state.” Until they say that, I think it’s awful—I think it’s a secondary question whether Israel’s gone too far....

....MR. RUSSERT: Speaker Gingrich, President Bush, should he try to intervene in this latest Middle East crisis, seek a cease-fire?

MR. GINGRICH: No. I mean, I think it is explicitly wrong and I think Senator Biden and I are basically in agreement on this. It is explicitly wrong to bring pressure on the victim. I mean, Israel did everything it could to withdraw from south Lebanon, and the result was terrorist missiles. Israel withdrew from Gaza, creating an opportunity for a self-governing Palestinian people to create a place of prosperity, and they’ve created a place of terror. And I think for us to now say—imagine that was Miami. Imagine Miami had missiles being fired at it every day. Remember that when Israel loses eight people because of the difference in population, it’s the equivalent of losing almost 500 Americans. Imagine we woke up this morning and 500 Americans were dead in Miami from missiles fired from Cuba. Do you think any American would say, “Now, we should have proportionate response. We shouldn’t overreact”? No. We would say, “Get rid of the missiles.” And, and John F. Kennedy, a Democrat who understood the importance of power in the world, was prepared to go to nuclear war to stop missiles from being in Cuba.

I don’t, I don’t think that, that any realistic person who’s being fair about this is going to focus on Israel. That’s why I don’t want people to think of this as a five-day war. As Senator Biden said, there has been a continuing failure of opportunity to strengthen the Lebanese government. There’s been a failure of opportunity to train and, and, and reinforce the Lebanese Army. There’s been a failure to say, “Look, we are ultimately going have to get—we’re going to have to defeat Hezbollah, and if that means in the long run we have to do something about Syria and Iran, then we need to face up to this.” Ahmadinejad, as recently as yesterday, the leader of Iran, said...
MR. RUSSERT: What do you mean do something about Syria and Iran?
MR. GINGRICH: I mean do whatever it takes—look, let’s say that tomorrow morning the Syrians decide to engage Israel. Let’s say the Iranians decide that they’re going to reinforce their 400 Iranian guards.
MR. RUSSERT: What do you do?
MR. GINGRICH: Well, the first thing you do is say they’re not going to have any over-flight privileges.
MR. RUSSERT: Isn’t it...
MR. GINGRICH: The second thing you do is you say to the Syrians, we have great capacity to pressure the Syrians if we want to. ...I think by any reasonable standard, trying to be nice to the Syrians, trying to understand the Syrians, is a dead loser as long as this dictatorship is there, because the planning meetings with Hamas and Hezbollah occurred in Damascus with the Iranian and Syrian ministers.
MR. RUSSERT: But an attack by Syria or Iran on Israel would be considered an attack on the United States?
MR. GINGRICH: I think it should be, it should be an action that we would reinforce the Israelis and others in doing what is necessary. And I think we have—clearly have the capacity to do something. I’m not describing going—widening a war. I’m saying the first step has to be to understand, this is an alliance- -Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas—and you can’t deal with it in isolation. .....

Israel targets Hizbullah bunker in Beirut

From Ynet News, 20/7/06, by Hanan Greenberg ....

Israeli warplanes dropped bombs late Wednesday on a bunker in south Beirut where senior Hizbullah leaders were thought to be, the military said.

IDF officials told Ynet that dozens of Air Force fighter jets participated in the massive air strike on a south Beirut target, acting on IDF intelligence.

Intelligence stating that Nasrallah was staying in the bunker was received Wednesday night, and numerous IDF jets were dispatched to the place shortly after. Following a brief discussion, IDF officials decided that the information was sufficiently credible to act upon and launch a massive bombardment on the area.

The al-Manar television channel reported that the planes blasted a building that was under construction in the Bourj al-Barajneh quarter where a Palestinian refugee camp is located. The network stated that the structure was located outside of Hizbullah's stronghold in town.

'Israeli intelligence infiltrated Hizbullah'
According to army officials, the building itself was completely destroyed and the IDF was checking the results of the strike –whether the senior Hizbullah officials Israel was targeting were actually at the scene. Additionally, a senior IDF officer said that Israeli intelligence had significantly infiltrated Hizbullah.

...The military said the attack occurred between 8 and 9 p.m. Reporters in Beirut said they heard a huge explosion around 8:30 p.m.

Israel has said that one of the objects of its offensive in Lebanon is to eliminate Hizbullah leaders.

Roee Nahmias and AP contributed to the report

Hezbollah's military capability

Reuters Factbox, 17/7/06...

.....Following is an assessment of Hezbollah's military capability before Israel's offensive, according to Nicholas Blanford, a Beirut-based analyst for Jane's Defense Weekly, as well as Lebanese and Israeli security sources:

-- 600 full-time fighters and another 3,000-4,500 veterans available for mobilization. Hezbollah guerrillas undergo training sponsored by Iran, use a range of infantry small arms, and carry out roadside and suicide bomb attacks.
-- 15,000-30,000 reservists in volunteer militias.

-- 13,000 Katyusha rockets. The 107mm variant has a range of 11 km (7 miles), the 122mm variant a range of 20 km (12 miles).
-- Iranian-made Fajr-3 rockets, with a range of 45 km (27 miles), and the Fajr-5 variant with a range of around 70 km (46 miles). Footage broadcast by Hezbollah suggests it manufactured its own version of the latter, renaming it Raad-1. Israel puts the number of these at around 100.
-- Israel said Hezbollah fired a Syrian-supplied 220mm rocket, with a 90 kg (200 lb) warhead at its port city of Haifa on Sunday that killed eight people. Hezbollah said it had fired a salvo of Raad-2 and Raad-3 rockets, but did not immediately provide further details.
-- Foreign analysts believe Iran has secretly deployed Zelzal-2 ballistic missiles with Hezbollah. Believed capable of carrying a 600 kg (1,320 lb) warhead, possibly with chemical or biological agents, to a maximum range of 200 km (125 miles). That would put all major Israeli cities in range.
-- Hezbollah fired an Iranian-supplied C-802 missile at an Israeli navy vessel off Beirut last week, killing four sailors.

-- Hezbollah has headquarters in the Shi'ite districts of Beirut and southern Lebanon, training camps in the Bekaa Valley, and liaison offices in Syria and Iran.

Peres: "when you are attacked, you defend yourself"

From Cox & Forkum, 18/7/06 ....

From Reuters, 19/7/06...

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Israel's leading dove, on Wednesday defended his country's intense bombings of Lebanon as self-defense and said the international community seemed too weak to resolve the crisis.

...."Iran has made a laughing stock of the world community" by supporting Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, Peres told Israel Radio. "Since World War Two, I haven't seen such a situation of international weakness."

He doubted Hizbollah would honor any truce the United States, Europe and United Nations are trying to mediate, and said Israel should continue its attacks until the guerrilla group was disarmed.

"Hizbollah attacked us and we are returning fire even more strongly ... This isn't the first time Israel is being attacked. We must win and stop this attack," Peres said.... "when you are attacked, you defend yourself, there is no need to explain it. This is a completely justified war."

Peres won a Nobel peace prize for mediating a 1993 peace deal with Palestinians, which fell apart when Palestinian-Israeli violence erupted in 2000.

Iran's role in the attack on Haifa

From The Weekly Standard, 18/7/06, by Dan Darling ....

AS ISRAEL CONTINUES to come to grips with Hezbollah's missile strike on the northern Israeli city of Haifa, it is important to fully appreciate the implications of this attack. While Hezbollah, like other terrorist and guerrilla organizations worldwide, has long been known to possess a number of Katyushas with a range of up to 10-20 kilometers, the two missiles fired at Haifa are believed to be Iranian-produced Raad-1s, which have an estimated range of as much as 150 kilometers.

While attacks by Katyusha rockets (like their Qassem counterparts that are favored by Hamas) have long been a problem for northern Israel, the grim implications of the use of Raad-1s against Haifa were best spelled out in a headline by Ynet News: "2 million Israelis under threat." The reach of Hezbollah's missiles, once believed to be confined to the northern border, has now spread to encompass the vast majority of Israel.

The introduction of Raad missiles should also clear up any lingering doubts among analysts as to the Iranian complicity in the latest violence. While the relationship between Hezbollah and the senior echelons of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) have long been clear enough to make it the quintessential textbook definition of state-sponsored terrorism, the increasingly sophisticated weapons being used by the terrorist group leave little doubt that Iran is complicit in the recent violence.

In an eerie parallel to the current situation, Time magazine discussed Hezbollah's relationship with Iran in a recent article in which it noted:
Hizballah officials have publicly said that the group possesses some 13,000 rockets. Most of them are believed to be standard Katyushas, which have a 12-mile range. But, Israeli officials say Hizballah also maintains a supply of 220mm and even larger rockets from Iran, a "strategic threat" capable of hitting targets in Haifa--20 miles inside Israel--and beyond. "They can target all of the north and go as far afield as Haifa, threatening one million inhabitants of Israel. It must be considered by Israel's leaders at all times," the Israeli military intelligence official says.

Israeli officials reportedly allege that the long-range rockets are under the direct command of officers of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, which Israel alleges has lately expanded its presence along the border. This charge, too, is denied by Hizballah, and has not been independently confirmed.

The Time article also goes on to discuss the continued financial support that Hezbollah enjoys from Iran, reporting that "one Western diplomat in Beirut estimated the figure at between $20 million and $40 million a month." These continued logistical and financial ties further highlight the absurdity of denying the clear-cut patron-client relationship that exists between Iran and Hezbollah. That this relationship continues in spite of Hezbollah's recent attacks leaves little doubt that Iran at least approved of, if not ordered, the current violence.

It is worth noting that Israel and the United States share a common foe with regard to Iran. For instance, as recently as June 23 the Washington Post quoted General George Casey as saying "We are quite confident that the Iranians, through their covert special operations forces, are providing weapons, IED [Improvised Explosive Devices] technology and training to Shia extremist groups in Iraq, the training being conducted in Iran and in some cases probably in Lebanon through their surrogates." Casey went on to say that the Iranians were "using surrogates to conduct terrorist operations in Iraq, both against us and against the Iraqi people." The extremist groups being referenced by Casey undoubtedly refer at least in part to Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army, members of which have caught a bloody swath of sectarian violence through Baghdad and the surrounding areas in recent weeks. Americans would do well to remember these facts as Israel confronts Hezbollah and their Iranian allies.

Dan Darling is a counterterrorism consultant.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

IAF foils rocket transports from Syria

From Ynet News, 18/7/06, by Hanan Greenberg ...

While army continues to strike Hizbullah, limit its weapons resources, outside groups trying to rearm group. IAF manages to bomb trucks transporting missiles from Syria. IDF Maj.-Gen. Eisenkot: These rockets belong to Syrian army

Although Hizbullah has suffered a harsh blow from Israeli air force strikes which took out a good percentage of their available weapons, Syria was continuing to smuggle arms into Lebanon to rearm the group, IDF Operations Branch Head Major General Gadi Eisenkot said during a press briefing Tuesday.

Thus far, the IAF managed to intercept a number of trucks transporting rockets from Syria to Hizbullah, including trucks laden with the 220mm-diameter rockets with warheads like the one that hit the Haifa train depot Monday, claiming eight lives. Maj.-Gen. Eisenkot said he would be very surprised if official elements in Syria were unaware of these transports.

“These are rockets that belong to the Syrian army. You can’t find them in the Damascus market, and the Syrian government is responsible for this smuggling,” Eisenkot said, but stressed, “We are not operating against Syria or the Lebanese army.”

During the briefing, Maj.-Gen. Eisenkot said the IDF has hit over 1,000 targets, 180 of them Katyusha and rocket storage sites and 350 launch sites. Over 250 missile strikes were carried out with the aim of blocking traffic arteries, and 200 buildings used by Hizbullah were hit. According to Eisenkot, Israel’s offensive would continue without time limitations.

...At the briefing, IAF Commander Brig. Gen. Amir Eshel presented footage of an army aircraft scoring a direct hit on a truck laden with rockets, and noted that the truck was disguised as a civilian vehicle in order not to be identified.

“We are faced with very complex operations here, which demand excellent intelligence information. To thwart this, we are blocking the Lebanon-Syria border, and warplanes are constantly flying over the area,” he said. He noted that as time passes, the air force was becoming familiar with the enemy and its operations were therefore becoming more sophisticated and efficient.

...The IDF was continuing to destroy Hizbullah bases within one kilometer of the border that were built over the past six years since the army withdrew from Lebanon. Residents of southern Lebanese villages, where rockets were being fired from, had been asked to leave the area, officials noted at the briefing.

Holding Israel to a higher standard

From The Australian, July 19, 2006, by Rebecca Weisser:

Why are Muslims portrayed as the victims and Israel the aggressor?

... Saturday's splash headline in The Sydney Morning Herald - "Global outcry at bombing" over a story which claimed "World powers fear Israel's clashes with rivals are escalating with breathtaking speed into a region-wide conflict with global security implications."

A more detailed reading of the Herald's story sourced this "global outcry" to Erkki Tuomioja, the Foreign Minister of Finland, a country which has a clever way with mobile phone technology but hardly ranks as a global superpower. For further evidence of the world's outrage, the Herald was forced to recycle comments from Russia and France that it had printed in Friday's newspaper.

In fact, as Tony Walker observed in Monday's Australian Financial Review, the international community, including the Arab world, is deeply divided in its response to the conflict. Conspicuously absent from the Herald's coverage was Saudi Arabia's condemnation of Hezbollah's "uncalculated adventures" which had created "an extremely serious situation". Hezbollah, according to a Saudi official quoted by the state Saudi Press Agency, had to "shoulder the full responsibility for this irresponsible behaviour and the burden of ending the crisis falls on them alone".

Predictably the Herald blames Israel for its "dismissive attitude toward Palestinians and Arabs set by the former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon". This, in spite of the fact that Sharon's Kadima party was formed explicitly with the purpose of creating a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

Meanwhile, Sydney's The Sun-Herald reported that three young Australians trapped in Lebanon "face the possibility of being conscripted into the Lebanese army if Lebanon decides to defend itself against the Israeli attacks".

Never mind that it was Hezbollah forces from Lebanon that launched an unprovoked attack on Israel when it violated Israel's northern border and attacked two Israeli Defence Force armoured jeeps patrolling the border with Lebanon, killing three soldiers and kidnapping two others. Hezbollah also blew up an Israeli tank, killing all four of the tank crew, and an eighth soldier was killed trying to retrieve the bodies of the tank crew. Vocabulary is important here.

The Sun-Herald consistently refers to Hezbollah operatives as guerillas and operatives from Hamas as militants, words that have the ring of freedom fighters rallying to a just cause. Yet Hezbollah's External Security Organisation, responsible for the attacks on Israel, like Hamas, is listed under Australian legislation as a terrorist organisation.

It is not just the Australian media that puts Israel in the dock. BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight on Friday framed its coverage with the loaded question: "Is Israel justified in its actions or are they disproportionate?" In an interview with Philippe Sands, a poster boy for the illegality of the Iraq war, presenter Robin Lustig asked: "That question of proportionate response lies at the heart of international criticism of Israel. Is the scale of military action appropriate? Is it indeed aimed at legitimate targets?" rather than questioning the legitimacy, proportionality or legality of Hezbollah's bombing of civilians in towns and cities in Israel.

It was a point picked up later by Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, who pointed out that in the war against Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia, bridges, roads and power supplies were targeted asking: "Is this not singling out Israel, holding it to a higher standard that Europe doesn't even hold itself to?"

And therein lies the rub. Israel is consistently held to a higher standard than the terrorists who attack it or the countries that condemn it, thanks to the inverted logic of political correctness.
The Independent in Britain might have surprised some of its readers and indeed its own contributors such as Robert Fisk when it editorialised in Sunday's paper that "This newspaper is pro-Israeli. We support the right of the state of Israel to exist, and sympathise with the Israeli people, who live in fear of terrorists who are intent on killing civilians indiscriminately. We share the frustration of the Israeli Government: having withdrawn from Gaza and, longer ago, from southern Lebanon, terrorists are now using both territories to fire rockets into residential districts."

But The Independent's supposed support for Israel is used to justify attacking the Israeli Government: "It is precisely because we are pro-Israeli, however, that we are so critical of the response of Ehud Olmert, Israel's Prime Minister, to terrorist attacks. In both the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, Mr Olmert has elected to impose collective punishment on entire populations for the sins of a tiny minority."

A more nuanced analysis came from Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel and director of the Saban Centre for Middle Eastern Policy at the Brookings Institute, who spoke with Tony Jones on ABC's Lateline last Wednesday. Indyk sees the makings of prisoner exchange by Israel with both Hamas and Hezbollah but says Israel is seeking to deter further kidnappings by inflicting a painful price on both organisations. "Otherwise," he points out, "there will be no end to this hostage-taking and demands for prisoner release."

The new managing director of the ABC and former editor-in-chief of Fairfax newspapers, Mark Scott, said on ABC Radio's Sunday Profile this week that he didn't think accusations of bias levelled at the ABC were any worse than those levelled at The Sydney Morning Herald. Judging by the coverage of the Middle East conflict over the past week, it is the ABC that looks balanced compared with the Herald.

Rebecca Weisser is a former Australian diplomat.

The Rogues Strike Back

From The Weekly Standard, 07/24/2006, Volume 011, Issue 42, by Robert Satloff [This excellent analysis demonstrates the strong connection between the "evil four"]....

Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah vs. Israel.

Iran thumbs its nose at Western diplomats and continues nuclear enrichment. Hamas's chief, speaking from Damascus, boasts about kidnapping an Israeli soldier. Hezbollah launches a cross-border raid, prompting Israeli retaliation in Beirut and a return volley of rockets on northern Israel. Just another bleak week in the hopeless Middle East? Regrettably, no. This one was different. This was the week the Dark Side went on the offensive.

Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah: These are not marginal fringe groups. The first two are sovereign states, the third forms the elected government of the Palestinian Authority, and the fourth holds 25 of the 128 seats in the Lebanese parliament and, effectively, two ministerial portfolios. This was the week that the rogue regimes of the "Old Middle East"--as opposed to the shadowy, faceless terrorist groups of the "New Middle East"--reminded the world that they too have the potential to grab headlines and wreak havoc.

Here's a recap:
On Monday, July 10, Khaled Meshal, head of the political bureau of Hamas, held a news conference in Damascus in which he took full responsibility for the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom he called a "prisoner of war."

On Tuesday, July 11, Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, told European Union envoy Javier Solana that Tehran was in no hurry to respond to a U.S.-European offer of incentives to end its nuclear enrichment program and would not give a formal reply until late August. Larijani then flew to Damascus, where he praised Hamas for its noble resistance to Zionist occupation.

On Wednesday, July 12, militiamen belonging to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah crossed the internationally recognized Israel-Lebanon frontier and attacked an Israeli position, killing eight soldiers and capturing two. This was "an act of war," said Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who authorized airstrikes on Beirut airport and Hezbollah facilities.

Later that day, the United States and other permanent members asked the U.N. Security Council to compel Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment activities. "We called [Iran's] bluff today," a senior State Department official told the Los Angeles Times.

On Thursday, July 13, Hezbollah rockets--supplied by Iran, via Syria--fell on major cities in northern Israel, including Haifa, Safed, Karmiel, and Nahariya, killing two, injuring dozens, and sending thousands to shelters. Israeli shelling shut down all civilian and military air access to Lebanon, as Israel continued bombing Hamas targets throughout Gaza, too. "All operations are legitimate to wipe out terror," said Israel's northern front commander Major General Udi Adam.
That's a lot of tough talk about war, face-offs, and showdowns, even for the Middle East, but what makes this train of events more worrisome than a typical week in the region is that these events--and their perpetrators--are all connected. No, this is not another Middle East conspiracy theory; to paraphrase Henry Kissinger's line about paranoids, sometimes bad guys shooting at you from all directions just might be in cahoots. In fact, the quartet of Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah constitutes a better oiled, more cohesive unit than the diplomatic quartet of the United States, the U.N., the E.U., and Russia. Indeed, the rogue foursome is linked ideologically and operationally in a much more organic way than the charter members of the Axis of Evil ever were.

The key, it is important to note, is not religion. Iran and Hezbollah are led by Shiite extremists; Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, an international Sunni movement; and Syria is governed by the world's only remaining Baathist, a secular chieftan of the Alawite sect, which reviles (and is reviled by) Syria's majority Sunni community. A feverish brand of radical Islamism certainly inspires some of these actors, but what drives them together is politics.

A generation ago, before Hamas and Hezbollah ever existed, Hafez al-Assad's Syria and Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran forged an alliance born of their common fear and loathing of Saddam Hussein. When the collapse of the Soviet Union deprived Syria of its superpower patron, leaving it surrounded by NATO-ally Turkey, pro-West Jordan, and the same thug in Baghdad, Assad continued to reach out to Tehran to avoid isolation. For their part, the Iranians exploited the situation, using Syria as the staging ground from which to build Hezbollah into their instrument for exporting the Islamic revolution.

In recent years, Hamas's success has been manna from heaven to the Iranians, Syrians, and Hezbollahis. Though these Palestinian Islamists fought and won their own battles against the more secular Fatah, Hamas's partners in the rogue quartet were perfectly happy to reap the benefits of a new front in their proxy war against Israel.

Today, these four--two states, one near-state, and one state-within-a-state--are collectively motivated by opportunity, not fear. The opportunity arises partly because the hated Saddam Hussein is gone, replaced by a weak, terrorist-wracked Shiite-led Iraqi government, propped up by a bleeding America. But each of these actors has its own reasons for exultation and brinkmanship.

Through Iranian eyes, the fact that the West has imposed no price for twenty years of lying about its nuclear program, but instead is still willing to offer ever-greater incentives, must seem remarkable. Only a preening sense of self-confidence can explain Iran's insouciant attitude toward the U.S.-E.U. offer. Indeed, U.S. and other Western diplomats who were dismayed at Iran's failure to respond to the package of carrots failed to recognize that Iran did respond, through what Clausewitz would have called diplomacy by other means: upping the ante via Hezbollah. With the threat of any meaningful U.N. sanctions months away, the Iranians took the initiative. Their goal is to make Israel just another item on the nuclear bargaining table with the West.

Through Syrian eyes, the fact that the West, operating through the U.N., appears less likely today than at any point in the past year to impose a price on the Assad family for its role in murdering former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri must seem similarly stunning. Only a robust sense of optimism can explain Syria's brutal crackdown on secular reformers and liberal dissidents at home and its ongoing efforts to silence critics--like the courageous journalist Gibran Tueni, assassinated in December 2005--in Lebanon next door.

Last week, Syria's accidental president, Assad's son Bashar, evidently looked at the rising price the West was willing to pay Iran to stop its objectionable behavior and decided he wants to get into the game. But, lacking significant oil revenues, he chose the poor man's blackmail of terrorism. Hence Syria's brazen decision to break the fiction of its nonsupport to terrorists by providing Khaled Meshal with a Damascus soapbox to boast of his terrorist deeds.

Through Hezbollah's eyes, the failure of the West to implement U.N. Secu rity Council Resolution 1559--which demands the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon and calls on the Lebanese government to exercise sovereignty up to the border with Israel--nicely fits its view of the Jewish state as weak, brittle, and impotent. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has likened it to a "spider web." Only an unswerving sense of ideological purpose can explain Hezbollah's willingness to ridicule its own role as a Lebanese political party serving in the Lebanese government by taking actions that rain Israeli retaliation down upon the heads of fellow Lebanese.

And through Hamas's eyes, the fact that the West, including Israel and the United States, permitted a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of the Jewish state to take over the reins of government in the Palestinian Authority--an entity whose only raison d'ĂȘtre is to be an instrument of peacemaking--is surely proof of divine intercession. Hamas's attack against the Israeli position at Kerem Shalom occurred just before the Europeans were set to launch a humanitarian aid program that would have dulled the impact of the U.S.-led financial quarantine on the PA, and just after Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas fell into the trap of endorsing a political platform, known as the Prisoners Document, that in large respects mirrored Hamas's own "solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Only a steadfast conviction in the rightness of the battle against the Zionist entity could compel Hamas leaders to forgo these advantages in exchange for the Israeli reoccupation of parts of Gaza.

Virtually overnight, an audacious Hamas raid has metastasized into a crisis that holds the greatest potential for regional conflagration in years. On a strategic level, the rogues' goal is almost surely to fuse the disparate crises into one--merging either the Hamas or Hezbollah front with Iran's nuclear standoff with the West, perhaps by the transfer of the captive soldiers to Iranian control, by direct involvement of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the rocket fire against Israel, or by some other means.

If that happens, then Hamas and its fellow quartet members may achieve what Yasser Arafat was not able to accomplish with two intifadas--to regionalize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and thereby radically alter the strategic balance. And if Iran is able to exploit this crisis to show that its nuclear program earns it and its allies special treatment on the terrorism front, Tehran will have proven precisely how beneficial the decision to invest in a nuclear program really was. As the Iranian newspaper Kayhan, close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, editorialized last Thursday, "Nuclear Iran is eradicating the nuclear prestige of Israel." That's the sort of rising star to which Syria would like to be hitched.

In Gaza and Lebanon, a battle between Israel and two of its enemies has now been joined. Its spread to two other enemies--Iran and Syria--is a stark and urgent possibility. Let us not mistake this conflict for a local skirmish, a pesky diversion from more serious business, like stopping Iran's nuclear program or building a free, stable Iraq. On the contrary, it is all of a piece.

Defeat for Israel--either on the battlefield or via coerced compromises to achieve flawed cease-fires--is a defeat for U.S. interests; it will inspire radicals of every stripe, release Iran and Syria to spread more mayhem inside Iraq, and make more likely our own eventual confrontation with this emboldened alliance of extremists. Victory--in the form of Hezbollah's disarmament, the expulsion of the Iranian military presence from Lebanon, the eviction of Meshal and friends from Damascus, and the demise of the Hamas government in Gaza--is, by the same token, also a victory for U.S. (and Western) interests.

Achieving those successes--and avoiding those setbacks--will take time, persistence, and leadership. While military force is essential, nonmilitary measures are needed too. These include organizing transatlantic consensus on economic and political pressure on Syria, devising a fast-executing international mechanism to disarm Hezbollah, and expediting the Security Council process on Iran. As enervating as it must be to an administration whose policy plate already overflows with tough problems, none of this can happen without America taking the lead.

Robert Satloff is executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Israel Solidarity Rally held in Melbourne

Follow this link for a report posted July 17, 2006, by Ronit Fraid of the Victorian State Zionist Council, of the Israel Solidarity Rally held in Melbourne over the weekend. The posting includes exerpts from several speeches by parliamentarians and photos.

Why Bush should go to Tel Aviv - and confront Iran

From (Financial Times), July 16 2006, by William Kristol ...

Why is this Arab-Israeli war different from all other Arab-Israeli wars? Because it’s not an Arab-Israeli war. Most of Israel’s traditional Arab enemies have checked out of the current conflict. The governments of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia are, to say the least, indifferent to the fate of Hamas and Hezbollah. The Palestine Liberation Organization (Fatah) isn’t a player. The prime mover behind the terrorist groups who have started this war is a non-Arab state, Iran, which wasn’t involved in any of Israel’s previous wars.

What’s happening in the Middle East, then, isn’t just another chapter in the Arab-Israeli conflict. What’s happening is an Islamist-Israeli war. You might even say this is part of the Islamist war on the West--but is India part of the West? Better to say that what’s under attack is liberal democratic civilization, whose leading representative right now happens to be the United States.

An Islamist-Israeli conflict may or may not be more dangerous than the old Arab-Israeli conflict. Secular Arab nationalism was, after all, also capable of posing an existential threat to Israel. And the Islamist threat to liberal democracy may or may not turn out to be as dangerous as the threats posed in the last century by secular forms of irrationalism (fascism) and illiberalism (communism). But it is a new and different threat. One needs to keep this in mind when trying to draw useful lessons from our successes, and failures, in dealing with the threats of the 20th century.

Here, however, is one lesson that does seem to hold: States matter. Regimes matter. Ideological movements become more dangerous when they become governing regimes of major nations. Communism became really dangerous when it seized control of Russia. National socialism became really dangerous when it seized control of Germany. Islamism became really dangerous when it seized control of Iran - which then became, as it has been for the last 27 years, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

No Islamic Republic of Iran, no Hezbollah. No Islamic Republic of Iran, no one to prop up the Assad regime in Syria. No Iranian support for Syria (a secular government that has its own reasons for needing Iranian help and for supporting Hezbollah and Hamas), little state sponsorship of Hamas and Hezbollah. And no Shi’ite Iranian revolution, far less of an impetus for the Saudis to finance the export of the Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam as a competitor to Khomeini’s claim for leadership of militant Islam - and thus no Taliban rule in Afghanistan, and perhaps no Hamas either.

It’s of course true that Hamas - an arm of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood - is at odds ideologically with Shia Iran, and that Shia and Sunni seem inclined to dislike, even slaughter, each other elsewhere in the Middle East. But temporary alliances of convenience are no less dangerous because they are temporary. Tell the Poles of 1939, and the French of 1940, that they really had little to worry about because the Nazi-Soviet pact was bound to fall apart.

The war against radical Islamism is likely to be a long one. Radical Islamism isn’t going away anytime soon. But it will make a big difference how strong the state sponsors, harbourers, and financiers of radical Islamism are. Thus, our focus should be less on Hamas and Hezbollah, and more on their paymasters and real commanders - Syria and Iran. And our focus should be not only on the regional war in the Middle East, but also on the global struggle against radical Islamism.

For while Syria and Iran are enemies of Israel, they are also enemies of the United States. We have done a poor job of standing up to them and weakening them. They are now testing us more boldly than one would have thought possible a few years ago. Weakness is provocative. We have been too weak, and have allowed ourselves to be perceived as weak.

The right response is renewed strength - in supporting the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, in standing with Israel, and in pursuing regime change in Syria and Iran. For that matter, we might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions - and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement.

But such a military strike would take a while to organize. In the meantime, perhaps President Bush can fly from the silly G8 summit in St. Petersburg - a summit that will most likely convey a message of moral confusion and political indecision - to Jerusalem, the capital of a nation that stands with us, and is willing to fight with us, against our common enemies. This is our war, too.

William Kristol is editor of The Weekly Standard; this article appears by arrangement with that publication

Rocket Barrage Continues

From Ynet News, 17/7/06, by Ahiya Raved

30 hurt in rocket barrages on north. One in moderate condition, 29 treated for shock or light wounds as Hizbullah rockets pummel northern communities. Residents of eastern Galilee, Rosh Pina, Carmiel, Safed, Nahariya, Haifa, Afula told to take shelter

Sirens sounded in the eastern Galilee, Rosh Pina, Carmiel and Safed once again Monday night, and rocket barrages were fired towards communities in the eastern Galilee and Upper Galilee, wounding 30 people. One of the casualties was in moderate condition, and the rest were treated for light wounds and shock.....

....As following attacks earlier this week, after the barrages Hizbullah broadcast a message saying it fired rockets towards Haifa.

Alarms were activated repeatedly, and residents reported hearing explosions echo through the region. Residents were told to take shelter in secure areas or bomb shelters. Sirens sent Nahariya, Haifa, Afula and valley residents into their shelters as well, but there were no reports of rockets hitting those areas.

....Monday Haifa suffered a number of barrages, and sirens sounded repeatedly throughout the afternoon. One rocket directly hit a three-storey building and severely damaged two of the floors.....

Hagai Einav and Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report

Monday, July 17, 2006

Thank you Israel

From American Congress for Truth Web site, 16/7/06, by Brigitte Gabriel ...

Dear Friends,

For the millions of Christian Lebanese, driven out of our homeland, Thank you Israel, is the sentiment echoing from around the world.

The Lebanese Foundation for Peace, an international group of Lebanese Christians, made the following statement in a press release to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert concerning the latest Israeli attacks against Hezbollah: "We urge you to hit them hard and destroy their terror infrastructure. It is not [only] Israel who is fed up with this situation, but the majority of the silent Lebanese in Lebanon who are fed up with Hezbollah and are powerless to do anything out of fear of terror retaliation....On behalf of thousands of Lebanese, we ask you to open the doors of Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport to thousands of volunteers in the Diaspora willing to bear arms and liberate their homeland from [Islamic] fundamentalism. We ask you for support, facilitation and logistics in order to win this struggle and achieve together the same objectives: Peace and Security for Lebanon and Israel and our future generations to come."

...Lebanese Christians responsible for giving the world the Paris of the Middle East as Lebanon used to be known, have been killed, massacred, driven out of their homes and scattered around the world as radical Islam declared its holy war in the 70s and took hold of the country. They voice an opinion that they and Israel have learned from personal experience, which is now belatedly being discovered by the rest of the world.

While the world protected the PLO withdrawing from Lebanon in 1983 with Israel hot on their heals, another more volatile and religiously idealistic organization was being born: Hezbollah, the Party of God, founded by Ayatollah Khomeini and financed by Iran. It was Hezbollah who blew up the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in October,1983 killing 241 Americans and 67 French paratroopers that same day. President Reagan ordered U.S. Multilateral Force units to withdraw and closed the books on the marine massacre and US involvement in Lebanon February 1984.

The civilized world, which erroneously vilified the Christians and Israel back then and continues to vilify Israel now, was not paying attention. While America and the rest of the world were concerned about the Israeli / PLO problem, terrorist regimes in Syria and Iran fanned Islamic radicalism in Lebanon and around the world. .... Since the Israeli pull out in 2000, Lebanon has become a terrorist base completely run and controlled by Syria with its puppet Lebanese President Lahood and the Hezbollah state within a state.

...It all boils down to a war of Islamic Jihad ideology vs. Judeo Christian Westernism. Muslims who are now the majority of Lebanon's population, support Hezbollah because they are part of the Islamic Ummah-the nation. This is the taboo subject everyone is trying to avoid.

The latest attacks on Israel have been orchestrated by Iran and Syria driven by two different interests. Syria considers Lebanon a part of greater Syria. .... Iran is conveniently using its Lebanese puppet army Hezbollah, to distract the attention of world leaders meeting at the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, from its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Apocalyptic Iranian President Ahmadinejad and the ruling Mullah clerics in Tehran want to assert hegemony in the Islamic world under the banner of Shia Mahdist madness. Ahmadinejad wants to seal his place as top Jihadist for Allah by make good his promise to wipe Israel off the map. No matter how much the west avoids facing the reality of Islamic extremism of the Middle East, the west cannot hide from the fact that the same Hamas and Hezbollah that Israel is fighting over there, are of the same radical Islamic ideology that has fomented carnage and death through terrorism that America and the world are fighting. This is the same Hezbollah that Iran is threatening to unleash in America with suicide bomb attacks if America tries to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapon. They have cells in over 10 cities in the United States. Hamas, has the largest terrorist infrastructure on American soil. This is what happens when you turn a blind eye to evil for decades, hoping it will go away.

Sheik Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, is an Iranian agent. He is not a free actor in this play. He has been involved in terrorism for over 25 years. ....

...At this point the civilized world must unite in fighting the same enemies plaguing Israel and the world with terrorism. We need to stop analyzing the enemies' differences as Sunni-Hamas or Shiite-Hezbollah, and start understanding that their common bond in their fight against us is radical Islam.

G-8 moves towards support of Israel

From Ynet News, Jul. 16, 2006, by ASSOCIATED PRESS, ST. PETERSBURG, Russia ...

World leaders agreed Sunday on a joint message on the crisis in the Middle East that reflected a significant swing of support toward Israel's argument that it has been acting in self-defense.

In their statement, the Group of Eight leaders called for the Israeli soldiers abducted in Gaza and Lebanon to be released unharmed; the shelling of Israeli territory to end; Israeli military operations to cease and Israeli forces to withdraw early from areas they have invaded in Gaza; and for arrested Palestinian ministers and legislators to be released.

But the statement did not call for a release of Arab prisoners held in Israel - which the terrorist groups have been trying to achieve - and expressed support for the disarming of Hizbullah.

At the same time, the leaders expressed their "deepening concern about the situation in the Middle East, in particular the rising civilian casualties on all sides and the damage to infrastructure," the statement read.

"We do not want to let terrorist forces and those who support them have the opportunity to create chaos in the Middle East," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters. "Therefore we place value on clearly identifying the cause and effect of events." "We are convinced that the government of Lebanon must be given all support and that the relevant UN resolutions regarding the south of Lebanon must also be implemented," Merkel said.

"We also demand that in addition to the UN activities, another observation and security mission is established. That must be worked out through the UN," she said.

In addition to the four priority actions, the G-8 leaders said they supported the start of a political dialogue between the Lebanese and the Israelis, and that they would favor a donors conference for Lebanon "at the right time."

On Gaza, it called for all Palestinian parties to accept the conditions of the so-called "road map," including recognizing the existence of Israel and rejecting violence. "For its part, Israel needs to refrain from unilateral acts that could prejudice a final settlement and agree to negotiate in good faith," the statement said.

On the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it called for an end to terrorist attacks against Israel, Israeli steps to ease the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the West Bank, including compliance with a November 2005 agreement on movement, and the resumption of security cooperation between the Palestinians and Israelis. It also called on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to resume steps to ensure his government's compliance with the principles set by the so-called Quartet of Mideast negotiators - the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations.

Lebanon should help disarm Hezbollah guerillas

Editorial from The Australian, July 17, 2006...

Israel's response is self-defence

IF there was ever any doubt that Israel's response to Hezbollah's hail of rockets was proportionate to the threat they pose to Israeli security, it has been dispelled by attacks launched from southern Lebanon deep into Israel.

With Hezbollah guerillas apparently well-armed thanks to money and material from Iran and Syria, Israel has been obliged to strike back in self-defence and to protect its civilian population in the north, including Haifa and Tiberias, a city hitherto thought to have been beyond the range of Hezbollah's rockets.

Reports that Hezbollah has an armoury of thousands of rockets capable of reaching Israel's heartlands -- and conceivably its capital, Tel Aviv -- leave it no option because, it's worth repeating, Israel is facing an implacable enemy that denies its right to exist and wants to wipe it from the map.

Hezbollah appears to have little sympathy for its host country, Lebanon. By attacking Israel -- no doubt taking the opportunity to strike by snatching two Israeli troopers while Israel was preoccupied with its mission to free a kidnapped soldier in Gaza to the south -- Hezbollah has invited a red-blooded reaction. No nation can sit back watching missiles rain down on its territory. Retaliation with a purpose has been Israel's modus operandi. It has hit key highways and Beirut airport to make it difficult for Syria to resupply or reinforce Hezbollah, while also attacking the source of the rockets and those who are launching them. If that includes the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah -- reported yesterday to have been wounded in an Israeli air raid, reports denied by Hezbollah -- then that's the brutal reality of what Israel must do to survive.

Moreover, Israel is doing Lebanon a favour by containing Hezbollah, a parasitic organisation that has outstayed its welcome in the new but fragile democracy that is Lebanon. Better late than never, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora says there can be no sovereign Lebanese state without disarming Hezbollah. Sadly, the Lebanese Government has been unwilling to take the hard steps necessary to achieve this end. Lebanon's army of about 70,000 soldiers is far superior to Hezbollah's guerilla force, estimated at about 6000, but does not appear to have the will to tackle the task of ridding Lebanon of its unwelcome guests. And given that the Lebanese army could spilt along sectarian lines if ordered to disarm Hezbollah, Mr Siniora should thank Israel further: he gets to keep a relatively unified army intact, while also watching Hezbollah arms and missile sites being destroyed, and its influence on Lebanese politics collaterally reduced.

Of course, disarming Hezbollah from within would be no easy task. With 12 MPs and two cabinet ministers, Hezbollah is a strong political entity. Nevertheless, if Lebanon is going to make progress and be embraced by the international community as a responsible and independent nation, it must face up to the malign influence of Hezbollah and take away the group's weapons -- or at least help Israel to do so. Otherwise Lebanon will remain a hostage to the guerillas and their principal backers, Iran and Syria.

Israel's defensible military response coincides with yesterday's meeting of world leaders in St Petersburg for the annual G8 summit. As might be expected, US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin have called for restraint, and the other six leaders will probably fall into line. Coupled with the European Union's routine condemnation of Israel's response to aggression from its enemies, the opinion of the G8 should not deflect Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Israeli Government, which has resolved to make it clear to Hamas, Hezbollah and other militant groups that there is a heavy price to pay for cross-border raids, rocket attacks and the taking of hostages.

Mr Bush's call for restraint -- while making it clear Israel has the right to defend itself -- is partly prompted by a desire to see Lebanon remain a friend of the West and his hopes the country can strengthen its democracy. But what Mr Bush and his G8 colleagues should be doing is calling for Lebanon to abide by UN Resolution 1559 to disarm Hezbollah. The G8 leaders could also reflect on comments from the most powerful Arab country, Saudi Arabia, which last week accused Hezbollah of "uncalculated adventures" that could bring destruction to Arab nations. Hezbollah elements should "shoulder the full responsibility for this irresponsible behaviour and that the burden of ending the crisis falls on them alone". Stern words, indeed, and a guide for the rest of the world's nations -- especially those that jump at the opportunity to attack Israel's right to self-defence.

Rice: No point in temporary ceasefire

From Ynet News, 16/7/06, by Yitzhak Benhorin ...

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backs Israel's military operation in Lebanon; US government says it has agreed to supply Israel with jet fuel to feed its warplanes

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned that for the time being the United States is not interested to assist in negotiating a ceasefire. There is no point in achieving a ceasefire so long as Hizbullah and Hamas are capable of firing rockets at Israel, and by doing so to breach it. In a series of interviews to large American television channels, the secretary of state added that this is not the right time to make diplomatic trips to the region to solve the crisis. "Extremists in Hamas, Hizbullah, and their supporters in Syria and Iran do not want to see a resolution of these situations on the basis of 1559 and the road map, because then they would have no reason for violence," Rice said. The US government will object the reaching of a cease-fire at the G-8 summit or at the United Nations.

'Defend yourself'
Speaking to FoxNews, Rice reiterated the American stance which was voiced by President Bush since the crisis started. "Our message to Israel is, look, defend yourself," Bush said. "But as you do so, be mindful of the consequences. So we've urged restraint."

"What you had in the Middle East before was American policies - bipartisan, by the way, it had been pursued by Democratic Presidents and by Republican Presidents - that engaged in so-called Middle East exceptionalism and was pursuing stability at the expense of democracy, and it turned out, as we learned on 9/11 or July 7th here, or in any - in London or across the world, was getting neither," she said.

The Pentagon notified Congress of plans to sell Israel jet fuel valued at up to USD 210 million "to keep peace and security in the region". "The proposed sale of the JP-8 aviation fuel will enable Israel to maintain the operational capability of its aircraft inventory," the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in notice required by law. It said Israel had requested the sale, but did not say when the request was made. "The jet fuel will be consumed while (Israel's) aircraft (are) in use to keep peace and security in the region," the notice to Congress said. It said the sale - which Congress may block if both houses were to enact resolutions rejecting it within 30 days - would not affect the basic military balance in the region.

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.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Martial law declared in the North

From JPost, Jul. 15, 2006 , by YAAKOV KATZ AND AMIR MIZROCH ...

Israel's war with Hizbullah intensified over the weekend as Katyusha rockets rained down on northern Israel, prompting the IDF to deploy Patriot missile batteries outside Haifa and Defense Minister Amir Peretz to declare martial law throughout the North.

[...Since the beginning of Operation Changing Direction against Lebanon, Hizbullah has fired over 700 Katyushas and mortars at Israel, OC Operations Directorate Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot said Saturday night. The rockets fell in Safed, Kiryat Shmona, Karmiel, Nahariya and other cities throughout the North....]

Meanwhile. a Katyusha rocket warning system is due to be activated in southern Haifa on Sunday, Home Front Commander Yitzhak Gershon said on Saturday night. The system will sound the alarm a minute before the rockets hit the ground in order for residents to seek shelter. Residents who had previously been asked not to leave their houses are requested to stay in the vicinity of shelters despite the introduction of the warning system.

On Saturday, two barrages of Katyushas landed for the first time in Tiberias, the deepest the rockets have landed in Israel since the fighting erupted last Wednesday. Fearing additional rocket attacks on Haifa, home to 270,000 Israelis, as well as strategic installations such as oil refineries and Israel's largest port, the IDF decided to deploy three Patriot missile batteries outside the city, for the first time since the US invaded Iraq in 2003.

On Friday night, an Iranian radar-guided missile fired by Hizbullah struck a Navy missile ship off the Lebanese coast. One soldier was pronounced dead and, by Saturday night three soldiers were still missing and presumed dead.

Also Friday, a woman and her grandson were killed when a Katyusha rocket hit their home in the community of Meron, near Safed. The child was identified as Omer Pesahov, seven, from Nahariya; his grandmother was Yehudit Itzkovich, 58, fromMeron. Dozens of others were treated for shrapnel wounds and shock by Magen David Adom, and the wounds of at least two people were listed as moderate to serious.

The IDF Home Front Command urged all residents of the North, estimated at almost a million people, to stay at home on Sunday and not go to work, camp, or spend time outdoors. On Friday, the Lebanese Army fired anti-aircraft missiles for the first time at an IAF fighter jet, the IDF said. The IDF warned that it would strike back at the Lebanese Army. "We will hit anyone who attacks us," a high-ranking IAF officer told The Jerusalem Post late Saturday night. "No one is immune."

Martial law, defense officials explained, grants the IDF the authority to issue instructions to civilians and essentially close down offices, schools, camps and factories in cities considered under threat of attack. The IDF also has the authority to impose curfews on cities in the North. Under such a situation, the instructions given by the Home Front Command, previously considered recommendations, become obligatory. It also allows for businesses that were closed following the extreme security situation to receive compensation for money lost. The order signed by Peretz will be in effect for as long as 48 hours. To extend it beyond that period would require governmental approval.

....Fighter jets launched four bombing raids on residential areas in the eastern city of Baalbek, where senior Hizbullah officials have residences or offices, witnesses said. Heavy black smoke billowed from the area and ambulances were seen rushing to the scene. The houses of two senior Hizbullah officials in Baalbek, Sheikh Muhammad Yazbek and Hussein Musawi, were destroyed in the airstrike, security officials said. The wanted men were not in the buildings at the time. According to a high-ranking IDF source, all of the Hizbullah leaders have gone into hiding.

... Estimates of the total number of missiles in Hizbullah's possession in southern Lebanon range between 10,000 and 13,000. .... "They have enough rockets at this stage to continue firing at Israel," Halutz said. "Hizbullah has taken on for itself the role of the defender of Lebanon, but in reality, it has become the destroyer of Lebanon," Halutz added.....

....The IAF had destroyed about 60 percent of Hizbullah's long-range missile capabilities as of Saturday night, Brig.-Gen. Rami Shmueli said, adding that 100 rocket launching platforms had been hit, as well as 11 mobile rocket launchers platforms. He added that Hizbullah had "several" missiles that could reach the central area of Israel, including Tel Aviv. "They haven't used these yet due to our deterrent action and their own calculations," Shmueli said, adding that the IAF had carried out thousands of sorties over Lebanon in the past three days. He confirmed that IAF jets have encountered anti-aircraft fire.

Eizenkot said the IDF was operating against Hizbullah's entire terror infrastructure in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley. Hizbullah had been thrown off balance by the Israeli response, he said. "The damage done to Hizbullah's military infrastructure so far has not been that great, but the damage to Hizbullah's conceptual picture of Israel's actions and responses has taken a huge hit," Eizenkot said, adding that Hizbullah had been surprised by Israel's response to last Wednesday's cross-border attack and kidnapping. Eizenkot added that Israel's response so far also served to send a message to the Lebanese government that millions of dollars of infrastructure had been destroyed, but that there was still "hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure that can still be destroyed."

Eizenkot added that Hizbullah operatives were fleeing southern Lebanon and Beirut's Dahiya neighborhood to hideouts in the Bekaa Valley and greater Beirut. Hizbullah was trying to draw Syria into the battle, he said, and pointed to Hizbullah's firing on areas close to the Golan Heights. By doing this, Hizbullah was hoping to draw an Israeli response on Syrian territory, he added. However, Eizenkot said that Syria was not militarily involved in the current conflict.

.... He added that the IDF had no intention of carrying out a long-term ground operation in Lebanon. Instead, ground forces would be deployed on a "surgical" level. "Hizbullah may surprise us in the coming days, but we have surprises for them, too," he noted. "Israel has an entire reserve army. So far Hizbullah has reached Haifa, and it may reach even farther south than that. Hizbullah still has capabilities they haven't used yet. We have to prepare for a long campaign."

Eizenkot stressed that the IDF was not targeting the Lebanese Army, but that it would should the latter decide to enter the fray. Referring to Friday's strikes on Lebanese Army radar installations along the Lebanese coast, Shmueli said the radar was attacked because it was used to guide the Iranian-made missile that hit the Israeli Saar 5 boat on Friday off the Lebanese coast.

AP contributed to the report.