The push to the Litani River is on / Expanded ground operations
The IDF is now quite a bit more active on the ground the last 36 hours. Major pushes into South Lebanon have seen several thousand IDF soldiers push into southern Hezbollah occupied villages on an effective looking multi prong attack.
Fighting is fierce, the IDF led by special forces and Tzanhani troops (Paratroopers) have been buttressed by air support, and thousands of reserve units hammering Hezbollah positions with artillery fire that as seen on TV is fairly incessant.
Despite casualties, which are par for the course sadly in warfare the IDF has begun making major inroads and is pounding Hezbollah. IDF spokespeople announcing that the southern "security control zone" will be active by the end of the week. That's pretty heavy duty gains, a testament to the need of employing adequate forces for any job. 10 terrorists killed in Baalbek by the IDF assault there, and now estimated in excess of 300 Hezbollah men have been taken out of the fighting. Some detail on the main prongs, and the Baalbek assault follow the map below. Godspeed to the IDF.
Map of the IDF actions
Daring Baalbek Assault
On top of the activity in the South, the IDF has tried to leverage stronger intelligence assets by striking DEEP into Hezbollah territory some 140 KM North of the Israel Lebanon border in the stronghold of Baalbek. The airborne / chopper insertion of some 200 special forces deep into Lebanon is classic IDF. The target, Hezbollah operatives in an Iranian / Hezbollah funded 'hospital' which serves as a safehaven for Nasrallah's terrorists. A four hour assault apparently involving further airborne reinforcements on the target has resulted in 5 Hezbollah captives. 200 Elite troops in an operation like this is monumental, tremendous in might & size!
The officer said the operation in Baalbek was planned last week to meet two objectives:
- To deal a blow to the Dar el-Hikma hospital, which was used to cover up Hizbullah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards activities.
- The second aim was in the Sheikh Habib neighborhood where weapons were seized and five Hizbullah terrorists were nabbed from a building situated about five kilometers from the hospital.
The hospital served as an outpatient clinic for Hizbullah. "The minute the soldiers arrived they came under fire. There were very few people. Soldiers found disks, computers and encountered armed men. A number of cars arrived at the scene but the forces neutralized them," the officer said.
A search of the building led soldiers to weapons. "The operations have a multi-operational value. They give us a good intelligence picture. Tonight five Hizbullah members whose ages range from 20 to 54 were kidnapped and their names are known to us," the officer said. The officer added that the operation was not carried out to nab specific Hizbullah members.
These Hezbollah terrorists picked up in this daring op which was casualty less for Israel will sing like canaries and hopefully be able to provide some on the spot intel possibly on the kidnapped soldiers whereabouts, Nasrallah's location, as well as Hezbollah plans. More importantly, a serious psy-ops blow has been delivered with Israel able to clearly take it to the terrorists anywhere & any time as necessary.
Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Dan Halutz said during a briefing on the operation in Baalbek that Israel "did not go in to kidnap someone specific. The operation took place for a number of hours and it was combined with wide-scale ground and aerial operations."
"During last night an operation took place in the heart of Lebanon. We struck over ten Hizbullah members and took five hostage. The purpose of the operation was to make clear that we can operate in the depth of Lebanon," Halutz told journalists.
Halutz addressed the military achievements of the operation and reported that "Hizbullah sustained hundreds of dead terrorists, more than a hundred, two hundred, and three hundred. In addition, we struck their medium and long-range rocket system." [...] YNET
The IDF is active on a number of village assault prongs near the Israel Lebanon border, to clear Hezbollah positions and infrastructure. The goal to push Hezbollah back from the border and establish a security zone that will be taken over once fighting has stopped, by an International force. The Litani River on the map above is drawn, but it is close to the rivers actual position and this is the key geographic barrier the IDF has set as the primary focus of efforts. A full six Brigades are in the mix so far, it's a lot of soldiers.
- The left most prong has moved past Zarit, which was the initial location of Hezbollah's attack on Israel where IDF troops were ambushed killing 8 and taking 2. The fighting in the area has been ongoing since the start of the conflict. What will be interesting to see on this prong is how far the IDF goes in regards to Tyre (on the map as Sour). Tyre is where the rockets hitting Haifa are believed to be originating from, it is a big city with a heavy duty Hezbollah presence. Chances are the IDF will not venture too far towards Tyre, but we might hear about special forces and continued air pressure on the city to knock out that threat as the IDF moves towards the Med sea to establish the left most area of the security zone.
UPDATED Aug 3rd:
Very interesting indeed, in light of heavy civilian casualties in Israel today from rocket fire the Defense Minister has ordered an expansion of the operation all the way towards the Litani across the board to hit precisely those rockets mentioned just above in Tyre..
Defense Minister Amir Peretz told Israel Defense Forces officials on Thursday evening to begin preparing for the next stage of the military offensive in south Lebanon, which would extend the IDF's control to all Lebanese territory south of the Litani River. The decision was made in the wake of Hezbollah rocket attacks that killed eight people in northern Israel earlier Thursday, officials said. The move, which would include occupying the port city of Tyre, still requires the approval of the security cabinet, and could mean a further call-up of reservist soldiers. [...] (Haaretz)
- In the center is one of the main thrusts. Maroun El Ras on the border, and just North of it Bit Jbeil have been in the news non stop as this is where the IDF was operating in the initial move into Lebanon about 10 days ago, these areas are being cleared in village hops. Bit Jbeil itself was cleared last week in heavy heavy fighting. Hezbollah command / control centers, posts, weapons and infrastructure all targeted.
- On the Eastern side near the Golan Heights and the northern most Israeli enclave of Metullah the IDF is also extremely active. This prong is active several KM into the area as far north as the Litani on the map. This area is critical, as it is the intersection of Israel, Lebanon, Syria and subsequently one of Hezbollah's access points to Syrian / Iranian supplies. The right hand arrow splintering off will be a crucial area over the next few days. Syria is mobilized on alert, the IDF will be employed to ensure that any foolhardy Syrian military activity meets an IDF end. In light of those realities Israeli forces will likely keep a lower profile in these areas so as not to provoke further expansion of the conflict.
There are casualties, I've linked above to some stories from soldiers of the hard fighting and the losses. But the sacrifice is not in vain and the IDF is making real gains and serious headway against Hezbollah, they may not be totally eradicated but they will be quite broken, Their ability to operate in the south finito.
UPDATE: Whooa on the loads of people visiting the Hashmonean thanks to some key bloggers links. My thanks to The Belmont Club, Small Dead Animals (I've indeed lurked at your blog, fair conservative canuck : ) Memeorandum.com, PajamasMedia, and others!