Pitched Battles in Southern Lebanon

Arutz - Israel National News

August 1, 2006

IDF soldiers have been fighting pitched battles with enemy forces in the eastern sector of southern Lebanon since the early hours of Tuesday. There are reports of casualties on both sides.

IDF paratroopers and artillery have killed approximately 20 Hizbullah fighters and injured many others during battles in the area of the village of Ayta A-Sha'ab. Enemy forces deployed several anti-tank rockets against Israeli troops during the ongoing fighting. Israeli unmanned drones are in the air over the area of the confrontations, providing the forces on the ground with real-time visual intelligence.

The current IDF ground offensive against Hizbullah targets in the eastern sector of southern Lebanon is part of stepped-up operations authorized by the government's security cabinet Monday night. The immediate mission of the military, according to government sources, is to push the Hizbullah further northward, to beyond the Litani River in southern Lebanon. The Litani runs between 4 and 40 kilometers from the Israeli-Lebanese border.

The Hizbullah has repeated its commitment to fight Israeli forces wherever they enter into Lebanon, saying that, in any event, an IDF push into Lebanon would not prevent Hizbullah rocket fire on Israel. According to Hizbullah statements, the terrorists are firing rockets from anywhere up to 60 kilometers from the Israeli border, which would place at least some of the rocket launchers north of the Litani River.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Lebanese media is reporting that Israeli jet fighters are attacking targets all along the Litani River, accompanied by heavy artillery bombardments in the central sector of southern Lebanon.

As early as July 15, reports from Lebanon indicated that the civilian residents of Ayta A-Sha'ab had been evacuated, after the Israeli government had asked the Lebanese government to do so. At the time, Hizbullah fighters claimed that they had repulsed an Israeli offensive into the area.

Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's political branch, said that the purpose of the renewed ground operations is to create the environment into which international forces could be inserted. In an interview with IDF Radio, Gilad said that Israel's successes against the Hizbullah damage the image the organization's chief Hassan Nasrallah is attempting to portray of himself as the saviour of Lebanon.

"Nasrallah kidnapped soldiers, then appeared in the media, and it was clear that he intended for Israel to attack a little and then enter into negotiations. He did not expect this scenario of a massive air offensive and a ground assault," Gilad said.