Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Broadened Offensive

The most recent Stratfor special report ("Israel Launches Major Offensive", 17:55 BST) says that yesterday's confusion has now been replaced by a degree of clarification. The political crisis which appeared to cloud the horizon of Israel's strategy in the conflict has been overcome at least temporarily, or put into abeyance, and the decision has been taken to invade Southern Lebanon - this being the minimum objective. A full invasion of Lebanon looks possible, if not yet probable.

IDF chief Lt..Gen. Dan Halutz's announcement after the approval of the UN ceasefire resolution that Israel was expanding its operations in Lebanon and that these would likely take another week to complete was followed by Northern Command chief of staff Brig. Gen. Alon Friedman's statement to press and media that he expects the operations to be pursued all the way to the Litani River. Some units have already reached the Litani, according to television reports.

In order to degrade the Hizballah communications and command control. air strikes were carried out on Tyre and Sidon in order to cut electricity power supplies.

The ground fighting has been intense, as more and more units have approached Hizballah fighting positions. Hizballah losses so far are estimated by the IDF at 20 killed. The report says that the IDF advance westward is coming from Taibe and Qantara, on an axis approximately 5 miles from the Israeli border.

A major assault on the village of Al Ghandourieh, near Marjayoun (which is held by Israeli forces), involved a fierce firefight which resulted in a lessening of Hizaballah rocket attacks throughout the morning:
The advance seen thus far is methodical and, in spite of reports, fairly conservative. The Israelis do not seem to be carrying out slashing armored attacks, but are concentrating on combined arms operations to isolate and destroy strong points. It is now clear that, unless another shift takes place among Israeli leadership, the destruction we expected in the south is taking place. This has already diminished rocket fire into Israel, but we remain doubtful that all rocket attacks can be shut down by attacking the south. Further operations remain an option, although that option is uncertain in this political environment
One issue now, the report supposes, is what will be the response of Hizballah. There is speculation that Hizballah may now bring long-range missiles into service, probably with conventional warheads, though this is not certain. The other issue is how far the Israeli forces will be allowed to go into Lebanon.
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