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IDF Chief Of Staff Dan Halutz: IDF Started Transfer Of Territory In South Lebanon To UNIFIL Today - But Ill Recommend Halting Handover If Lebanese Army Does Not Move South.

There Is a Potential For New Flareup: It Depends On Political Solutions

MK Ami Ayalon: Chief Of Staff Must Not Resign At This Crucial Time

IDF Chief Of Staff Dan Halutz

IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz briefed the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee on the war with Hezbollah. He arrived amid calls for his resignation after it was disclosed that three hours after Hezbollah attacked Israel, General Halutz called his bank to sell off his stocks. But in committee, the Chief of Staff got a show of support in light of the fragile situation in the Middle East.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

The IDF made its first hand-over of territory in south Lebanon to UNIFIL today - that statement came from Chief of Staff Dan Halutz to the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee.

General Halutz said the Lebanese Army must now move in to take control of the vacated territory from UNIFIL. If it does not, the Chief of Staff will recommend that Israeli forces suspend their exit from Lebanon. Under the terms of the cease-fire resolution the Lebanese government is obligated to dispatch Lebanese troops to the south. However, the Lebanese cabinet has postponed two sessions on this issue.

General Halutz warned: There is a potential for a new flareup; it depends on the implementation of the political solutions.

For its part, the IDF was ready to pull out within ten days. Meanwhile Israeli, Lebanese and UNIFIL officers have met in Nakura, south Lebanon for the first time since the cease-fire went into effect on Monday morning. Senior French officers have also arrived in Beirut.

On the ground, eleven Hezbollah guerrillas were killed over the past two days when they threatened IDF soldiers. But by and large Hezbollah is maintaining the ceasefire.

The IDF is under strict orders to open fire only if endangered by Hezbollah. General Halutz stressed the need for the IDF to do a thorough and swift stock- taking from me on down. It was necessary to correct any faults in the IDFs performance because he could not rule out that the situation could deteriorate again. As for Hezbollah, they had fought with determination -it was like fighting with suicide-bombers. Nonetheless, in one on one combat the IDF troops came out on top. He said many stories of IDF valor would emerge from this war.

The Katyusha rockets came as no surprise - but the IDF had not counted on the huge quantity of some 5,000 that were launched at Israeli civilians. It became apparent that air power alone could not take out the Katusha launchers; a ground operation was needed. The Chief of Staff explained why it was not launched until Friday night, just hours before the U.N. adopted the ceasefire resolution. He said the security cabinet had given the green light two days earlier but the operation was put on hold due to political developments at the U.N. When the push to the Litani River began on Friday night, it was not clear that the ceasefire resolution would be adopted within hours and that the IDF had only 48 hours to reach the Litani River. He went on to say that maybe Israels political echelon believed the ground operation would facilitate the ceasefire agreement.

Hezbollah made prolific use of anti- tank rockets knocking out a number of tanks and inflicting casualties on infantry. General Halutz described it as posing a challenge in real time. One solution could be the new anti- tank missile system for armored vehicles developed by Raphael, Israels top-secret arms authority. He admitted that mistakes had been made and repeated. A long list of areas would now be examined and conclusions drawn.

A senior IDF intelligence officer said a power struggle is emerging in Lebanon today. Although Nasrallah rejects the U.N. resolution calling for Hezbollah to be disarmed, he is also leery of a civil war. But Nasrallah will try and torpedo any attempt by the Lebanese government to weaken its control of south Lebanon. Syria and Iran want to rebuild Hezbollah; mainly to restore its long- range missile capability that was hit hard by Israeli jets.

Labor MK Ami Ayalon, a former commander of the Israeli navy, had some strong words for the post war situation. He believed the Arab Street now felt that Israel could be moved only by force. Israels strategic situation had been weakened. Therefore, Israel must prepare quickly for the threat of war on its northern front. The Palestinian situation could also take a turn for the worse. In light of this Ayalon declared: The Chief of Staff must not resign at this time. It was vital that General Halutz now oversee the restoring of the IDF. Only then should the Chief of Staff consider resigning. Speaking for the Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee, the Chair Zachi Hanegbi of Likud, issued a message of support for General Halutz who has been bitterly criticized for selling off his stocks on the day the war began.

David Essing

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