The Southern Lebanon Offensive and the New Buffer Zone

Southern Lebanon. Green indicates Israeli occupied town; red IDF warned towns of operations; yellow Israeli airstrikes; orange clashes. Click map to view.

The Israeli Defense Force is probing hard across the entire Lebanese border, from Metulla to Marwahin. Eight Israeli brigades, at about 1,000 soldiers per brigade, plus supporting units (engineering, artillery, reconnaissance, communications, logistics) are currently engaged inside southern Lebanon. “IDF troops had established positions overlooking 11 south Lebanese towns and villages up to six kilometers north of the Israeli border,” according to Haaretz. The southern Lebanon battle map has been updated to include the position of Israeli troops and current clashes based on news reports.

Haaretz also states “the IDF is planning to establish “a new defensive line in southern Lebanon that will be six to eight kilometers north of the Israeli border,” that is “effectively the same security zone it held until the pullout from Lebanon in May 2000.” We discussed the buffer zone possibilities on July 17 (along with the comparison to the 1982-2000 occupation) and again on July 25. The current plan would be an improvement over the 1-2 kilometer zone and air based patrols initially proposed by Israeli leadership.

The IDF has encountered strong resistance from Hezbollah’s military formations along the border. An Israeli Merkava main battle tank was destroyed in the town of Rajmin (Ramyah on the map) by Hezbollah anti-tank weapons, and 2 Israelis were killed and 2 seriously wounded. Yesterday, 3 Israeli soldiers were killed and 15 wounded during an ambush in the town of Ayta ash Shab. Israeli troops killed 15 Hezbollah fighters during the counterattack.

Overall, the IDF estimates 250-300 Hezbollah have been killed during the fighting over the past three weeks. Depending on the estimate of active Hezbollah fighters (which ranges from 2,000 to 5,000), Hezbollah has suffered anywhere from 5% to 15% casualties. This does not include Hezbollah’s reserve fighters, estimated between 20,000 to upwards of 50,000. The IDF has a lot of work to do to render Hezbollah an ineffective fighting force,and Hezbollah’s rockets still remain a threat. Over 210 rockets landed in northern Israel yesterday, the highest total yet, and 130 rockets were launched in 90 minutes today, which killed 7 Israeli civilians and wounded 49. Overall 180 rockets anded inside Israel on Thursday.

As the Israelis look to prepare southern Lebanon for an international security force, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad again openly voices his desire for the destruction of Israel, and indicates a cease fire is the first step. “Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented,” said Ahmadinejad, “Peace and security in Lebanon and its borders has to be preserved by the Lebanese government and people. Deployment of foreign forces is not acceptable in any shape unless it is just, based on UN rules and preserves the unity and territorial integrity of Lebanon.”

Ahmadinejad’s statement comes on the heals of the news that Said bin Laden, Osama bin Laden’s son and appointed successor, has been released from Iranian custody and is headed to Lebanon. “From the Lebanese border, he has the task of building Islamist terror cells and preparing them to fight together with Hizbollah,” the German newspaper Die Welt reports (see Jeffrey Imm’s post for additional details.) If true, Said would have access to the thousands of Sunni Islamists currently bottled up in Syria who have not been able to enter Iraq, Iran and Syria have every intention of escalating the war in Lebanon, and the notion that Sunni and Shiite terrorist groups cann not and do not cooperate can be put to rest once and for all.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • The Southern Lebanon Offensive and the New Buffer Zone

    Courtesy of the Counterterrorism Blog:
    By Bill Roggio
    The Israeli Defense Force is probing hard across the entire Lebanese border, from Metulla to Marwahin. Eight Israeli brigades, at about 1,000 soldiers per brigade, plus supporting units (engineer…

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