Israel: Much Smoke, Little Fire


July 19, 2006: So far, the fighting with Hizbollah has left about 300 people dead. Some ten percent of those are Israeli, as a result of nearly a thousand Hizbollah rockets fired into Israel. Nearly all of these rockets are unguided, and most Israelis along the Lebanese border, are spending most of their time in bomb shelters. Most of the Hizbollah rockets are short range ones (20 kilometers or less), and are not having much impact. Some of the rockets were Syrian. Israel has teams of forensic specialists go over the site where each rocket lands, collecting fragments of the rocket and identifying its type.
Longer range (over 40 kilometers) rockets are needed to reach Israel's third largest (and northernmost) city of Haifa. But the inaccuracy of these rockets has meant that each one causes only one or two casualties. Israel has moved three Patriot anti-missile missile batteries to Haifa.
Israel is believed to have destroyed, on the ground, three or four rockets for every one that is fired. Israel has a large force of UAVs and long experience using them. There are a lot of Israeli self-propelled artillery up near the Lebanese border, no doubt working in close cooperation with UAVs and helicopters (which tend to stay on the Israeli side of the border to avoid ground fire) to zap Hizbollah rockets as they are being moved or set-up for firing. A lot of this takes place as night, when Hizbollah gets reminded how well the Israeli night-vision cameras work.
Hizbollah is riding high now, as the independent Arab media praise the attack on Israel. But state controlled media throughout the Arab world is less supportive, and sees Hizbollah as an anti-Arab agent for the Shia Iranians. Iran has, for thousands of years, been seen as the enemy of the Arabs, and many Arabs see the current Hizbollah antics as another ploy to stick it to the Arabs. Arab politicians realize that the chances of Hizbollah "winning" its war are practically nil, and that a Hizbollah defeat will further erode the reputation of Arabs as fighters and thinkers.
Israeli ground troops moved into Lebanon. Israel has said it does not intend to conduct large scale ground operations in Lebanon. But small groups of troops are apparently going in to seize or destroy stocks of Hizbollah weapons, or capture Hizbollah operatives.
Israel is not saying what its strategy is, or exactly how its tactics are working. But the Israelis do have a plan, and they are aggressively carrying it out. While Hizbollah has fired nearly a thousand rockets into Israel, causing about 360 casualties. This has made the Israelis angry, not despondent. Opinion polls in Israel show most of the population favoring continuing the fight with Hizbollah.
July 18, 2006: Israel has waged a largely secretive intelligence gathering campaign against Hizbollah, and the places where the terrorist organizations rockets have been stored. All this took place in the shadows, for obvious reasons. Over the last six years, as Hizbollah built up an arsenal of, it is estimated, over 10,000 rockets. Israel has refrained from attacking these weapons, largely in order to not let Hizbollah know how well the Israelis were at figuring out the Hizbollah plan for hiding the rockets. Israel is not saying much about their attacks on Hizbollah's rocket arsenal, but there have been secondary explosions (Hizbollah rockets exploding after an Israeli smart bomb or missile goes off) seen or heard on the Israeli side of the border.
July 17, 2006: Israeli bombers have destroyed most visible Hizbollah structures. This includes headquarters for numerous Hizbollah organizations, support facilities and housing for key Hizbollah staff. Roads and bridges connecting Lebanon to Syria have been hit. While roads can be repaired quickly, the downed bridges force traffic to be rerouted into a smaller number of possible routes across the border, and between north and south Lebanon. The mountains of Lebanon provide few opportunities for cross-country travel, so now anyone traveling around Lebanon is more likely to be spotted by Israeli aircraft and UAVs. Trucks carrying new supplies of rockets from Syria have been attacked.
The fighting continues in Gaza, with over a hundred dead in three weeks of Israeli efforts to find their captured soldier. The Palestinians are less eager to deal now, despite their dire economic and political straits, as they await the outcome of the conflict with Hizbollah. If Hizbollah gets beaten, Hamas will be forced to make a deal as well.


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