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IDF Chief Of Staff Dan Halutz: 'The Israeli Operation In Lebanon Will Continue As Long As It Takes'

Defense Minister Amir Peretz: 'Israel Will Not Allow Hezbollah Guerrillas To Return To Their Positions On Lebanese-Israeli Border'

Israeli Operation Just Reward In Lebanon Is Aimed At Eliminating Strategic Threat Posed By Hezbollah

Israel has unleashed its air power to eliminate Hezbollah's capability to terrorize northern Israel from south Lebanon. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his cabinet have ordered the Israel Defense Forces to do what it takes to knock out the guerrilla organization that is a law unto itself in Lebanon

The current Israeli military operation in Lebanon will continue as long as it takes thats the message from IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz as the Israeli Air Force unleashed a massive strike against Hezbollah targets.

Within hours of getting the green light from the Israeli cabinet, Israeli jets and helicopter gunships raided more than seventy targets in Lebanon. General Halutz says the cabinet has given him full scope to do what it takes to smash the Hezbollah infrastructure. From Beirut down to the Israeli border Israeli air power have been clobbering Hezbollah targets. Israel has also sent a forceful message to the Lebanese government by forcing the closure of Beirut airport. Heres Deputy Premier Shimon Peres and Cabinet Minister Yitzhak Herzog:

Hezbollah has responded by launching scores of Katyusha rockets into Israel. Israeli residents in the north have been ordered to remain in their bomb shelters. One woman who did not, was killed instantly when a Katyusha scored a bulls eye on her home in Nahariya. Some forty Israelis were hospitalized hospitals in Galilee have moved their patients to underground wards.

IAF hits in Lebanon

Meanwhile, Israel started burying the eight soldiers killed in the cross border attack by Hezbollah. The troops drove into an unprovoked Hezbollah ambush inside Israeli territory. These casualties have had the impact of a mega-terror attack and Israel is reacting in fury. A senior IDF officer has said the two IDF soldiers who were kidnapped are alive. What does all this mean and where is the situation headed? Israel evacuated all IDF forces from south Lebanon over six years ago - the Lebanese have no real territorial beef with Israel. This has been confirmed by the U.N. At the time of the Israeli pullout, the U.N. Security Council adopted resolution #1559. It called on the Lebanese government to exercise its responsibility and send the Lebanese Army to take control of its border with Israel. This, the Lebanese refused to do. Instead they allowed Hezbollah terrorists to keep their weapons and build military positions opposite IDF outposts along the border. The Beirut government rejected U.N. appeals to dispatch its army to the border area. Armed by Syria and Iran, Hezbollah assembled an arsenal of over ten thousand rockets along the frontier which are being fired into Israel today. Israel may be paying a high price but Defense Minister Amir Peretz says Lebanon is paying dearly for turning a blind eye to Hezbollah. Peretz declared that Hezbollah forces would not be allowed to return to their former positions that Israel has now devastated along the border. The deadly Hezbollah attack has tipped the scales in more ways than one. In the past, Hezbollah and the Palestinian terror groups have used the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and civilians as a bargaining chip to secure the release of Arab prisoners. This was a tactical step and Israel often agreed to free hundreds of prisoners for a few Israelis. But this has suddenly changed in light of the strategic situation.

Israeli military operations in Lebanon are not being restricted because of the two abducted soldiers. Israel has decided to cross this Rubicon in light of the evolving threat to the states security. This is linked to Israels withdrawal of Arab territory that is then exploited to terrorize Israeli civilians.

It has developed now on two fronts - south Lebanon and Gaza. The fact that Hezbollah has taken control of territory evacuated by Israel to pose a severe missile threat to northern and even central Israel has altered the equation. In affect, Hezbollah created a new balance of terror for conducting cross border attacks at its choosing. A similar situation developed in the Gaza Strip. The terrorists converted the territory evacuated there into launch sites for Qassam rocketing of Israeli civilians. In addition, both Hezbollah and Hamas have perfected cross border raids for killing and abducting Israeli soldiers. That is the prescription written by their sponsor in Iran for wiping the Jewish state off the map. And that is why Israel can be counted on to go for broke in the current flare-ups in Gaza and Lebanon.

Syria: A major Hezbollah stronghold is located in the Baalbeck region near Lebanon's border with Syria. What happens if Israeli jets target this area that is covered by a Syrian missile umbrella? A senior Israel Air Force officer has warned that the Syrians had better be warned of Israels air capability.

David Essing

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