Israel Resource Review 15th August, 2006


HIZBULLAH FIRE PARALYZED ISRAELI UNITS: Anatomy of the battle with Hizbullah
Middle East News Line

BINT JBAIL, Lebanon [MENL] --

The 20 soldiers from Israel's elite Golan Brigade moved through the darkness over the rocky hills of Lebanon until they arrived at the outskirts of this Shi'ite town that until last month contained 35,000 residents. The unit entered an unfinished house to prepare for combat within a few hours.

The troops, however, never advanced beyond their two-story hideout. Hizbullah gunners, believed to have been hiding in the ruins of Bint Jbail, spotted the Israeli force and directed mortar, anti-tank and machine gun fire that trapped the elite Israeli unit for 36 hours in an area thought to have been cleared of the enemy.

"It's like fighting through chewing gum or glue," Col. Shlomo Parente, a 48-year-old reservist who fought in the 1982 war in Lebanon, said.

[On Tuesday, Hizbullah escalated ceasefire violations and fired artillery shells toward retreating Israeli soldiers. No Israeli casualties were reported.]

The Golani squad was not alone. Military sources said numerous Israeli combat units, without effective air or armor support, spent most of their time in Lebanon paralyzed by Hizbullah fire. They said hundreds of soldiers were often overwhelmed by as few as a dozen Hizbullah mortar and anti-tank gunners within sight of the Israeli border.

In all, Israel sent 30,000 soldiers to Lebanon. At least 118 soldiers were killed in the 33-day war. The military said 530 Hizbullah operatives were killed.

"From the point of view of the individual soldier, they are better than the Arab armies that surround us," Col. Omri Bar-David, a reserve battalion commander, said.

In several cases, Israeli commanders, citing Hizbullah squads, dismissed orders to advance. The military reported the detention of five Engineering Corps soldiers, including a reserve company commander, for refusing to embark on a mission in Lebanon.

"There is a lot of confusion," Anon, a soldier not involved in the courtmartial, said. "We go in, we come out. We go in, we come out."

The 20-man unit from the Golani Brigade's 51st Battalion arrived in Bint Jbail on August 10. Hizbullah first disabled a Merkava Mk-3 main battle tank with an AT-14 Kornet anti-tank missile.

Then, Hizbullah gunners directed anti-tank fire toward the building that contained the Israeli force. The unit, which sustained eight casualties in Bint Jbail on July 26, huddled in a first floor bathroom, deemed the most secure part of the building.

"It's been ugly," Dudi Levisohn, a member of the Golani squad, said. "But it's our job. We have to do it. We suffer so the people in Tel Aviv can enjoy themselves."

Military sources said Hizbullah also forced Israeli units to turn off their communications and tracking equipment. They said Hizbullah deployed systems designed to identify a range of signals, including that of cellphones.

"During the day, Hizbullah sees us perfectely and we can't see them," another officer said. "The only time we conducted operations were at night because we believed our night vision systems were better than theirs."

Several Russian-born Israeli soldiers said Hizbullah's tactics reminded them of Chechen rebels. They said Hizbullah fighters were better trained and equipped than the Chechens.

"Hizbullah is tougher," Vladi, an infantry sniper, said.

Sgt. Joel Abel, a medic for a paratrooper unit, said Hizbullah missile strikes exacted a heavy toll on soldiers in Lebanon. Abel, who fought in Bint Jbail and nearby Maroun Al Ras, said several of the soldiers were unprepared to remain in cramped quarters as rockets exploded around them.

"They were quite hysterical," Abel said. "They sat on the side and didn't know what to do. It was the first time they'd ever seen that kind of fighting."

In another battle, an infantry battalion fought 24 hours to advance three houses in a Shi'ite village. The soldiers were pinned down by heavy Hizbullah anti-tank fire from a network of tunnels and bunkers.

"You don't have to worry about bullets," an officer, identified only as Eyal, said. "It's the anti-tank missiles."

On August 12, a reservist paratrooper unit, traveling in eight APCs, sought to bring water and supplies to combat units in the Lebanese village of Taibeh, five kilometers from the Israeli border. The area was deemed "relatively safe," an officer in the unit said.

"Right now we are maintaining control of the area of Taibeh," a reservist identified only as Elisha said. "But the primary threat is the anti-tank missiles. But they are usually only aimed at large things like tanks. That's why it's better on foot. The bigger the object the easier it is to see and hit."

Within 30 minutes, the reserve convoy was stopped by Hizbullah anti-tank, Katyusha and machine-gun fire. Three of the APCs failed to reach Israeli positions at Rabb Al Talatin.

"One APC was unable to climb the hill so I put its supplies in my vehicle," Ariel, a commander, said. "But by the time I put them in we heard there was a vehicle hit. We had a doctor and a medic so we had to unload the supplies to make room for the wounded soldiers."

Later, the convoy unit was told that an Israeli tank was struck by a Hizbullah missile. They said three soldiers in the tank were killed and a fourth was seriously injured.

Military sources reported numerous casualties from Hizbullah improvised explosive devices. Yaron, a 30-year-old reservist, recalled nearly stepping on a landmine and then struggling to maintain his balance as his force withdrew along a slope under heavy artillery fire.

"That night I couldn't function," Yaron recalled. "I cried the whole damn night and thank God my officers care about me. I guess it was the last straw. I'm not very good at handling stress and here you get a lot of stress without a break."

Military sources said Hizbullah has been trained in guerrilla tactics by Iranian and Syrian instructors. They said the tactics were developed from lessons learned by the Vietcong in the war with the United States.

"They have studied Western armies to see how we make war and they have prepared themselves for six years," Yossi, an officer, said.

With the onset of the United Nations-arranged ceasefire, Israeli soldiers, particularly reservists, have expressed increasing criticism of senior commanders. On Monday, reservists were angered when Northern Command chief Maj. Gen. Udi Adam of Hizbullah termed Hizbullah a terrorist group.

"They are professionals," a soldier who returned from Lebanon told Adam. "They have new weapons. There have been no improvement in our tanks in 10 years. Their mission is clear -- to hurt us. And they can do this very well. Don't say they are not soldiers. They are soldiers."

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Help the People in the North_ Focus on their needs and Demand Accountability
David Bedein

Following the unprecedented 3800 missile attacks on Israel's civilian population, the UJC is launching a $300 million dollar campaign, there are people in need and there are bonafide service organizations who need direct assistance who cannot get any such assistance through the normal channels.

Our older daughters, Leora, aged 18 and Rivka, 23, went to Tzfat for two weeks to help run the shelters for the people there.

They were part of a volunteer team who replaced the social service system that collapsed.

Many social service professionals and other municipality workers left Tzfat on July 13th, the 17th of tamuz, when more than 100 missiles hit the city. The municipal workers left with their publicly owned cars, along with almost anyone in Tzfat who had a car.

The job of the volunteers was to work with the people who were stuck in Tzfat - immigrants, old people, poor people, handicapped people. My girls improvised - dressing up as clowns and performing in the shelters - my older daughter is a trained as a professional clown therapist.

As the HaAretz newspaper documented today, the social services simply did not function through this month long crisis, and the vacuum was picked up by private non profit health, education and service organizations. The head of the Israel Association of Social Workers gave an interview in Globes today in which he called for the creation of an investigation of how these public services collapsed

Indeed, hundreds of groups from the center of the country contributed whatever they could to the people from the north, and, tragically, the lack of coordination of services caused friction and tension between different sectors of the development town populations who accused one another of receiving aid at the expense of one another.

Ironically, the Globes newspaper has reported and confirmed that the non profit health, education and social service organizations in the north will receive no compensation for damages that they faced during this period. Those damages occurred because the contracted funds that these organizations receive from the local municipalities and from other sources were not received over the past month, which these services continued to function.

In another piece that appeared in HaAretz, it was noted that the weak municipalities in the north will not be able to survive this crisis. For example, the cities of Tzfat,Kiryat Shmoneh, Hatzor, Tiberias, Maalot and Acre have not been able to pay the salaries of their community center workers for several months, and the war situation will make matters worse.

At this point, funds which are transferred to any of these municipalities will be swallowed up by the banks, to cover debts.

Meanwhile, the decision of the Olmert government to NOT declare this to be a war situation will mean that thousands of people will not be able to collect full insurance for lost income, for property damage and for business losses.

At the same time, the Israel Ministry of Industry and Trade, under the ministerial leadership of former minister Olmert, reduced the power, authority and counseling services of the consumer protection authority of the government, making it hard for people to get appropriate counsel for their situation.

Moreover, none of these municipalities provide any framework for pro bono legal services for people to find out what legal rights they have at this time.

Another development - the New Israel Fund is raising funds for Arab towns, with the specious claim that they were the only ones without appropriate shelter facilities, without noting that the Arab villages, like ALL Israeli towns, were ill prepared and without appropriate shelters -despite six years of warnings that were ignored. The greatest lie of all concerns the issue of the air raid siren systems. The NIF is spreading the word that the Arab villages do not have the sirens. An investigation by Ronny Sofer of YNet documented how Nazareth and some of other Arab villages had demanded to be cut off from the Israel siron system, because they did not like being bothered on Israel Memorial Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The bottom line: Discretion is the better part of valor. This will be a time to give with your hearts and with your heads . . . to make sure that the people in need really get the help that they deserve

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Commentary on Cease Fire, Day Two
Arlene Kushner

Difficult to know what to begin with, or how to descibe the lunacy I am observing:

-- Lebanon my be on the verge of making arrangements with Hezbollah regarding the confiscation of weapons: Hezbollah would be able to keep their weapons, but just not be allowed to show them in public.

Barry Rubin says -- in response to claims that as a result of the war Hezbollah will no longer be a "state within a state" -- that this will be because Hezbollah is stronger and can control the state.

-- Assad of Syria declares that Bush's dream for a new democratic Middle East is dead, Hezbollah has won the war and Israel is the enemy.

-- Hamas announces that they will return Gilad Shalit only if we release thousands of prisoners.

-- And the puncher: Our esteemed Minister of Defense has declared that war brings new opportunities, and now is the time to begin negotiations with the Palestinians and lay groundwork for negotiations with Syria. Huh??


I recommend a piece by Ari Shavit from last Friday's Ha'aretz, "A Spirit of Absolute Folly." With insight, Shavit examines the national mindset that get us into our current fix.

"A simple thing happened: We were drugged by political correctness. The political correctness that has come to dominate Israeli discourse and Israeli awareness in the past generation was totally divorced from the Israeli situation. It did not have the tools to deal with the reality of an existential conflict . . .

" . . . Another thing happened: We were poisoned with an illusion of normalcy. The State of Israel is fundamentally an abnormal state. Just because it is a Jewish state in an Arab region, and just because it is a Western country in a Muslim region, and just because it is a democratic state in a region of fanaticism and despotism, Israel is in constant tension with its surroundings.

" . . . However, in the past generation this cruel insight has dissipated, the delusion has spread that we have overcome our problems and reached a state of tranquility, and that we can live in this place like any other nation . . . Weakness prevailed. Our willpower was weakened.

"Both political correctness and the illusion-of-normalcy spread first and foremost among the Israeli elites. The Israeli public in general has remained for the most part sober and strong. It did not err with illusions of a new Middle East. It did not turn its back on the existential imperative, the defense ethos and the IDF. Even its core values were not destroyed. Therefore, it impressively withstood both the test of terror of 2001-2003 and the test of "fire-on-the-home front" of 2006 . . .

" . . . On the other hand, the Israeli elites of the past 20 years have become totally divorced from reality . . . Their unending attacks, both direct and indirect, on nationalism, on militarism and on the Zionist narrative have eaten away from the inside at the tree trunk of Israeli existence, and sucked away its life force. While the general public demonstrated sobriety, determination and energy, the elites were a disappointment."

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