This is the Tenth Middle East Crisis open-thread. Please post all developments, news stories, comments, links, theories, ideas, etc. . . here in this thread. The earlier threads by number are I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VII – IX. If you post comments in this thread, please do not post identical news articles in the newsqueue.
At first glance, it appears like an odd role-reversal when Israeli reconnaissance units are leading pack animals into battle while Hezbollah fighters are wielding modern anti-tank weapons. But as U.S. special operations forces calling in airstrikes from horseback in Afghanistan showed, mountain and fourth-generation warfare present new challenges that must be met on the ground.
Sustained special operations deep inside enemy territory have always meant heavy loads of food and ammunition, now compounded by the need to haul modern communications and surveillance equipment. While raids based on intelligence can be inserted by helicopter, move to the target and pull out, pack animals indicate invaders plan an extended stay. This is generally indicative of long-range patrols and reconnaissance units setting up observation posts deep inside enemy territory. Even in the era of surveillance satellites, some of the best intelligence still comes from human observation. Israeli patrols fitting this description were spotted returning from Lebanon a week ago. We suspect many more are now well-positioned to observe much of the southern Bekaa Valley.
Full disclosure, Stratfor has been calling for “BIG MOVES” for three weeks now.
Three artillery rockets slammed into a field outside the coastal town of Hadera, Israel, on Aug. 4. Hadera is midway between Haifa and Tel Aviv, 50 miles south of the Lebanese border. This is the farthest penetration of a Hezbollah artillery rocket into Israeli territory yet — and only about 30 miles from downtown Tel Aviv. [snip]
The Hadera attack follows Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah’s Aug. 3 threat to strike Tel Aviv with Hezbollah’s long-range missiles. The fact that Hezbollah has resorted to launching one of its more-capable long-range rockets further indicates that Nasrallah is under no illusion that Israel will back down from its ground offensive. Hezbollah cadres are under heavy pressure from Israeli forces, and the time may have come for the militants to use their most prized long-range missiles. Furthermore, aiming in a trajectory toward Tel Aviv can only be an intentional escalation on Hezbollah’s part.
More as it develops. Updated map below.
The Israeli air force (IAF) on Aug. 4 launched its first major attack on Christian areas north of Beirut, Lebanon, including the resort town of Jounieh. The strikes killed five people and wounded several others. The IAF also carried out strikes on the four bridges on the main coastal road linking Beirut to Syria. The 90-minute drive to the border now takes about three hours.
The elite Israeli Golani Brigade lost two men Aug. 4 in Markaba, Lebanon, where fighting is reportedly heavy. Nevertheless, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) units are moving en-masse into the southern part of the country, engaging in urban combat all along the border and sustaining few of the casualties seen in Bent Jbail last week.
Israel has gotten no respite from Hezbollah rocket attacks, with 70 rockets falling in less than an hour Aug. 4 and a total of 135 by 2:28 p.m. local time. The northern city of Qiryat Shemona is coming under increasing fire. It is on nearly the same latitude as Tyre, making it one of the most vulnerable cities to artillery rockets from both southern Lebanon and the mouth of the Bekaa Valley. It is also the staging area for an enormous number of IDF troops.
Israeli air force strikes resumed in full force, hitting at least 15 infrastructure targets — mostly bridges. Three bridges linking Beirut to northern Lebanon were taken out, further isolating the capital. Airstrikes also knocked out a power station in the Bekaa, leaving the entire Kiraoun area without power.
An examination of the ground forces’ achievements to date shows that they have not hit more than ten launchers. The immediate goal of the fighting is not stopping the rockets, but eliminating Hezbollah’s southern unit, the Nasser, on the assumption that this will crack the organization’s fortitude. Hezbollah’s losses are already estimated at some 380 combatants. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is convinced that Hezbollah’s breaking point is near. The army is more skeptical.
So far, Israel’s performance in this war has not been impressive. Its air and artillery fire has not hindered Hizbullah’s ability to fire rockets into Israel. The heliborne raid on Baalbec this week signals Israel’s intent to change to a more aggressive use of ground combat power. But it is another fair question to ask how much damage that poor performance in the early stages of this campaign has done to effective deterrence, which the fear of Israeli and US forces has exerted until now.
Uzi Dayan — former commander of Sayeret Matkal, an elite unit — said Israel needs “bargaining chips” in the form of Hezbollah leaders, in order to secure the return of captured Israeli soldiers. That was an interesting statement, not because it was official — it wasn’t — but because it indicated the mood of senior Israeli military leaders. If you are looking for bargaining chips, you expect to be bargaining.
Israel Defense Forces deployed at least three brigades of reservists to the “security zone” in southern Lebanon on Aug. 3 in addition to paratroopers and regular forces, Israel National News reported.
Israel Defense Forces’ Druze Patrol Brigade clashed with Hezbollah members in the western region of southern Lebanon, Ynetnews reported Aug. 3. One member of the militant group was killed and another injured in the village of Menahla.
Police in Saudi Arabia broke up a pro-Hezbollah Shiite protest Aug. 3 in Al Qatif in the eastern region, home to the kingdom’s Shiite minority. Demonstrators carried banners of Hezbollah and pictures of its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, and burned Israeli flags.
The Israeli air force resumed strikes on southern Beirut, Lebanon, early Aug. 4, firing at least four missiles at Hezbollah and Hamas offices in the Dahiniye neighborhood. Israeli airplanes dropped leaflets over the area earlier in the night, warning residents of impending attacks. Israel also targeted Lebanon’s northern border with Syria in an effort to stop the flow of weapons to Hezbollah.
Two hundred and thirty artillery rockets — by far Hezbollah’s largest single-day barrage so far — struck northern Israel on Aug 2, including a strike in the West Bank, close to the maximum range of the Fajr-5. The Fajr-5, which Hezbollah calls the Khaiber-1, was at about its maximum range from the border of Lebanon when several struck Jenin. Then, on Aug. 3, the second-deadliest day for Israeli civilians so far, over 160 rockets were launched — more than 100 within a few minutes — and eight civilians were killed.
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