Southern Lebanon. Green indicates Israeli occupied town; red IDF warned towns of operations; yellow Israeli airstrikes; orange clashes. Click map to view.
The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has given the Israeli Defense Force the final approval to conduct the ground assault to the Litani River in southern Lebanon. “According to military sources, close to 70 percent of the Katyusha rockets raining down on Israel are fired just south of, and north of the Litani river. It is in these parts of Lebanon that the Hizbullah’s Nasser Unit is waiting with thousands of fighters and functioning command and control centers,” reports the Jerusalem Post. Over 40,000 Israeli troops are available for the full scale invasion of southern Lebanon.
Prior to the green light from the government, the IDF has been fighting pitched battles on the central and eastern sectors along the Lebanese border. The IDF has pushed into the Christian town of Marjayoun, which overlooks the Litani River and sits across Hezbollah supply lines south of the river. The IDF has also engaged Hezbollah in the town of Rashaf. The movement into Rashaf and Marjayoun is the IDF’s deepest ground penetration into southern Lebanon since the war began (see the current battle map).
In all sectors, Hezbollah has smartly employed anti-tank missiles to engage and damage or destroy Israeli armor. The Times Online outlines Hezbollah’s weapons and tactics in southern Lebanon, which include the use of anti-tank missiles and mines, roadside bombs, rockets, bunkers, weapons dispersal, snipers, training and motivation. On July 21, we noted ‘Hezbollah also possesses mortars, RPGs, anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, anti-tank missiles and possibly surface to air missiles to accompany their arsenal of short and medium range missiles capable of striking into the heart of Israeli territory. Hezbollah is using infantry tactics and fighting at the squad and platoon level.’
Hezbollah has an organized, motivated army in southern Lebanon, and likely beyond, that can only be uprooted by slugging it out on the ground. The Israeli government has up to this point in time been hesitant to take the casualties that would be involved with the full scale ground invasion and is eager for a United Nations brokered cease fire (see this article in Haaretz.) The constant barrage of rockets into northern Israel and the subsequent displacement of 1.2 million Israelis has changed the equation, and forced the Olmert government to send in the ground troops. But the Bekaa Valley remains on the distant horizon, there is no indication the IDF will be moving into Hezbollah’s heartland on the ground.
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