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IDF Chief Of Staff Dan Halutz: 'We Are Achieving Our Goals By Employing Air Power & Artillery Without A Ground Operation Into Lebanon'

'Israel Has No Interest In Attacking Syria'

In spite of the Hezbollah rockets still hitting Israel, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz says the Jewish state is winning the war. General Halutz was briefing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee in Jerusalem.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

After demolishing the Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut, Israeli aircraft and artillery are now focusing on south Lebanon. IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz revealed: As of yesterday, the IDF has been hitting every Hezbollah rocket site in south Lebanon. Hezbollah guerillas exploit the villages and population there to launch Katyusha rockets into Israel. Israeli aircraft and artillery are directing precision fire at these launch and storage sites. At the same time, General Halutz said Israel was trying to avoid innocent Lebanese casualties. Residents of villages lending support to Hezbollah are given four hours to evacuate - so far seven villages have been evacuated. The town of Nabatia with a population of 30,000 residents has also been a Hezbollah stronghold. The exodus has been to the north with thousands of people fleeing to the port of Tyre. As for the Hezbollah positions that were built along the Israeli border, they have all been demolished. Israel is wiping out all Hezbollah symbols in the south as it has in the Hezbollah stronghold of Dahia in Beirut.  Moreover, the IDF has destroyed all the bridges over the Litani, Zaharani and Awali rivers linking south Lebanon to Beirut. The concept is that Israel will no longer acquiesce in Beiruts letting Hezbollah rule the south and attack Israel. This has been accomplished without invading Lebanese territory and General Halutz supported this approach. But he added: As an army we must prepare for a ground operation if it proves necessary. He spoke of the need for patience noting that the fighting has been lasted only one hundred hours. Air power and precise artillery fire was way to go adding that last night some one hundred aircraft flew missions over Lebanon.

Hasan Nasrallah, Yesterday

Sheik Nasrallah: The IDF did not know where the Hezbollah leader was hiding out. He was believed to be in a bunker in Beirut that he had prepared in 1996. Halutz said the Hezbollah headquarters in the Beirut quarter of Dachia not longer exists. And he added Nasrallah has erred badly in not understanding Israels refusal to buckle in to terrorism. Hezbollah bases in the Baalbeck valley close to Syria were also being raided. In fact, Nasrallah has tried to draw Syria into the fray. He ordered Hezbollah to launch a rocket into Syrian territory over the Israeli occupied Golan Heights hoping the Syrians would think Israel fired the missile. However, the rocket landed inside Israeli territory. The Chief of Staff declared: We have no interest in attacking Syria.

Nevertheless, Hezbollah is still capable of hitting Israel with rockets. The IDF has pulled out all the stops trying to provide as much early warning as possible. Israels highly vaunted Green Pines radar network for the Arrow anti-missile system is also in operation. The problem is that the short-range Katyushas do not give enough time. Another danger was a Hezbollah pilot-less drone flying by GPS and with a forty-kilo payload of explosives. A senior Israeli intelligence officer said it was tough to deal with these threats but the IDF was coping. He went on to say that Hezbollah has been planning for an Israeli invasion by mining roads, setting up anti-tank traps and deploying snipers.

The Israeli casualty list to date:

Twelve soldiers and twelve civilians killed

Two hundred and fifty six Israelis have been injured most of them lightly - forty have been hospitalized

Some one thousand mortars and four hundred and fifty Katyusha rockets have been fired into Israel

The IDF evaluation is that Hezbollah is being seriously weakened and that the Lebanese government is being made aware of its responsibility. These conditions could lead to the return of the Israeli captives. Hezbollahs sponsors remain on the sidelines so far. The Syrians were said to be on high alertadministratively. A truck convoy of Katyusha rackets from Syria to Lebanon was intercepted last night by Israeli jets on the Beirut-Damascus highway. As for the Iranians, they too support Hezbollah but are not getting involved.

Footnote: Defense Minister Amir Peretz has categorically denied a Hezbollah claim to have shot down an Israeli F-16 aircraft over Lebanon.
David Essing

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