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WHO IS WINNING THE WAR?

Hezbollah Launches More Than 150 Rockets Into Northern Israel

Chief Of Staff Dan Halutz: Commando Raid In Baalbeck Showed IDF Can & Will Operate Anywhere In Lebanon

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: Victory In Lebanon Will Promote Future Israeli Realignment In West Bank

IDF special forces

While the war escalates between Israel and Hezbollah, the debate has begun over who is winning. Both Prime Minister Olmert and Sheik Nasrallah say they have no doubt about the outcome. But in Israel, the issue is not clear-cut.

 

Hezbollah bombarded northern Israel by more than 150 rockets by noon Wednesday. Meanwhile stepped up its ground operations with an airborne commando strike deep inside Hezbollah territory.  

One of the Katyusha rockets killed a kibbutznik in Galilee who was riding on a bicycle. Ten other people were injured several seriously and dozens more treated for shock. Again, many buildings were damaged and only bomb shelters prevented the casualties from being far higher. One Syrian missile landed near a Palestinian village close to Mount Tabor. The Syrian missiles have a range of some100 kilometers with a 100 kilo warhead.

South Lebanon

With talk of a cease-fire just around the corner, both Israel and Hezbollah have accelerated their attacks. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said: Every day of fighting sees the IDF further weakening Hezbollah. As reported previously, Olmert has now said publicly that Israel will not honor a cease-fire until an international force is in place to prevent the guerillas from returning to the border area. It could take several weeks until the U.N. puts it together and sends it to southern Lebanon . Then again, theU.S. has the last word - so far President Bush has saying Israel needs to get the job done. Clearly, the perception of who wins the war will determine the political outcome that follows.

The IDF has bolstered its accelerated ground operations in the border area with a special- forces raid in the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbeck near the Syrian border. Arriving by chopper at night, they hit 10 Hezbollah fighters and took five others captive at a Hezbollah hospital. Chief of Staff Dan Halutz says the action showed the IDF can and will operate anywhere in Lebanon . He said it was no intended to capture anyone in particular. General Halutz didnt know how long the fighting would carry on; that was up to the government. But the IDFs main thrust now is to clear out Hezbollah fighters and positions in a seven-kilometer strip along the entire length of the 70-kilometer border with Lebanon . The guerillas are heavily armed and dug in. Thats why the first day of this operation took the lives of three IDF paratroopers. Three infantry brigades are carrying the brunt of this hand-to-hand combat. Prime Minister Olmert saysIsrael has already made great achievements against Hezbollah restoring Israels deterrent power in the Middle East . Therefore the Prime minister says this will add impetus to his future plan to pull back on theWest Bank . On this score, Cabinet Minister Haim Ramon adds: We do not respond proportionately to aggression. When we unilaterally evacuate territory and our enemies then use to kill us, we will not react proportionately. Ramon believes the Palestinians have learned the lesson of how Israel has reacted to Hezbollah. But not all Israelis agree. In fact, retired Brigadier-General Rafi Noy contends that so far Israelis losing the war. He went on to say: The IDF has yet to show up for the war. Noy charges its a tactical mistake to conduct the war piecemeal and he cannot understand why the IDF has not thrown in its considerable manpower. Although another former general, Knesset Member Matan Vilnayie is less critical, he also notes how the IDF moved so decisively against the PLO in 1982.

 

Some critics question whether former Air Force Commander Halutz is depending too much on airpower and is less familiar with commanding ground forces.

But former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevi believes the IDF has inflicted severe damage on Hezbollah. At the same time, Halevi takes issue with the plan for an international force to keep Hezbollah at bay in south Lebanon . He argues that an international that will take on the guerillas is a pipe dream. Halevis solution is to seek some kind of deal with Hezbollah's sponsors in Iran . But this also appears to be another pipe dream since Iranian President Ahmadinejad wants to wipe Israeloff the map.

On a more optimistic note, retired IDF general Yitzhak Ben Israel believes Hezbollah is running out of rockets. So far, two thousand hits have been located in and around Israeli population centers.  However, twice that number of  Katyushas probably fell elsewhere in the country. Moreover, Ben Israel says the Israel Air Force raids have knocked out many rocket depots and truck shipments from Syria .

But the PMs talk about a future withdrawal on theWest Bankhas sparked a sharp reaction from the right wing. The Likud charges that Olmert has torpedoed national unity in time of war. Some reservists From the West Bank who have been called up say they want to know if their fighting in Lebanon will lead to their soon losing their homes in Judea and Samaria.

David Essing

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