Israel Resource Review 21st July, 2006


How to Defeat Hezbullah: Hold Syria Accountable
David Bedein

This war is unique in the history of Israel's wars.

Contrary to other wars, the enemy on the other side of the border is not a state, it is an organization.

Governments throughout the world, with the exception of Iran and Syria - even Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, even the UN-want to see Israel crush Hezbollah into dust.

When Israel faces off with Hezbollah, the struggle returns to the challenge against the Jewish state's right to exist in the heart of the Muslim world.

Hezbollah outposts occupy all the hilltops in the area, and command a view of a broad valley from which the Katyushas are launched.

Above them all is the village of Maroun al-Ras, where some of the houses are a regional base for Hezbollah.

The area is so central that it can be used for firing rockets at the Galilee panhandle, Tiberias and even the western Galilee where one million Israeli citizens call home . . .

This week, the IDF received authorization from the political echelon to send in ground forces to compel the Hizbullah fighters in the caves to fight.

However, Hizbullah's ground forces in southern Lebanon are unshaken and are ready for an Israeli ground invasion, with drills practiced over the past six years. Its people are in the dugouts, on patrol, lying in ambush, waiting for the invasion-which they think will come.

Only one month ago, a senior Israeli army official explained the concept of how the Israel's military planned to deal with Hizbullah. The concept envisioned by the army was based largely on special operations unit, to be backed by air power. Most of Israel's operations would be conducted from the air. Fighter-jets would destroy guerrilla strongholds. Helicopters would pick off enemy combatants while unmanned aerial vehicles would select and track targets.

However, Israeli air power as a panacea has been shattered.

The Israeli army has been stunned by the failure of Israel's air war against Hizbullah, which has shrugged off massive air bombings on its headquarters in Beirut and also maintain its rocket war against the Jewish state.

The air force learned that lesson in Beirut as fighter-jets sought to destroy Hizbullah headquarters.

Officials acknowledged that 23 tons of munitions failed to penetrate the thick walls of the underground command headquarters constructed by Iran. Today, Israel's advanced technology has been unable to detect, let alone stop Hizbullah assaults. Moreover, the Israeli Military sources acknowledge that Hizbullah quickly developed methods to penetrate Israel's C4I [command, control, communications, computers and intelligence] border system, based on advanced sensors and heavy air surveillance.

U.S. analysts were also impressed by the conversion of Soviet-origin munitions into Hizbullah weapons meant to terrorize civilians. They said Syrian-origin 220 mm rockets had some of their explosive payload replaced by ball bearings. In other cases, cluster bombs were attached to rockets in an effort to increase civilian casualties.

In addition, Hizbullah has learned how to disable cameras and exploit blind spots to cut through the border fence and attack Israeli military positions. They said this was how a small Hizbullah force attacked an Israeli border post on July 12 and abducted two soldiers.

Now, the Israel General Staff has approved the entry of at least 5,000 troops in Lebanon in a limited search-and-destroy mission for Hizbullah rockets in villages near the Israeli border. So far, about 3,000 soldiers have been deployed in southern Lebanon, where attack aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles failed to detect and battle Hizbullah fighters in the thick hilly underbrush.

This invasion would have far-reaching implications in terms of potential losses - both for the IDF and for the civilian's f Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Hizbullah leader Hessian Karalla has said several times since the outbreak of the fighting that he is waiting with relish for the IDF to launch a ground operation in Lebanon. He knows well that when two sides meet at such close quarters so that they can see the whites of each other's eyes, a regular army loses most of its advantages.

Among the rocks, or in the narrow alleys of a village, Israel's air superiority is no longer relevant. Moreover, a guerrilla organization like Hizbullah holds the advantage in such conditions. It knows the territory much better and can hide until it sees the most advantageous moment to open fire. And as if this were not enough, Hizbullah has used the past six years to build an effective network of underground caves and strongholds linked with a network of trenches and state of the art communication cables. It is almost impossible to see the entrances to the caves from above because they are camouflaged by special nets, and these are precisely the fortifications which the Israeli soldiers have to assault.

Yet there is a way to avoid the ground war, by holding one nation state responsible: Syria, a nation in a formal state of war with Israel since 1948, has equipped Hizbullah with these long-range rockets. Even if Iran supplied the rockets, it is Syria that has arranged for their deployment, because Syria remains the effective ruler of Lebanon. After all, Iran, despite all of the rhetoric, is not in a state of war with Israel

Speaking where he did not know that there was an open mike at the G-8 summit, President George Bush made it clear that he held Syria responsible for restraining the Hizbullah.

A cardinal rule of Israeli foreign policy has always been that if an Arab nation would sponsor terror attacks in Israel, that nation state would pay a price. Lebanon has not deployed these missiles against Israel. Syria has done so, and Syria should pay the price for doing do.

The precedent: In October 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, Syrian missiles hit Kibbutz Gvat, barely missing the children's home on the Kibbutz. Within hours, the Israeli Air Force flattened the Syrian Ministry of Defense.: Never again did the Syrians ever launch a direct attack on an Israeli civilian target.

At this time, Israel is in a unique position to recruit nations around the world to hold Syria responsible for pulling in Hizbullah. And Israel is in a position to threaten Damascus that for every target hit by Syria's proxy, Israel will single out Syrian targets for attack. That is where the Israel Air Force can show its prowess. By bombing Damascus, Israel can reduce Lebanese casualties. By bombing Damascus, Israel can also reduce its own civilian and military casualties, in a ground war that is nearly impossible for Israel to win against an entrenched and well trained guerrilla army.

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