Bombs over Beirut (and beyond)


Both Israel and Hezbollah have intensified their campaigns in the past two days; Israel's air strikes have expanded to include suburbs of Beirut, more highways, and Lebanons northern border, while Hezbollah launched over 200 rockets into Israel on Thursday (its largest barrage so far in a single day). Hezbollah, on Friday, also succeeded in hitting a field in central Israel outside the city of Hadera, by far the southern-most point hit so far.The biggest development since my last update is Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah's appearance in a taped television statement. He told the Israelis:

"If you strike Beirut, the Islamic resistance will strike Tel Aviv and it is able to do so[if] at any time you decide to stop your campaigns on our cities, suburbs, civilians, and infrastructure, we wont strike with rockets any settlement or Israeli city."
Tank.jpgIn response, a senior Israeli military source said "If Tel Aviv is attacked, Lebanese national infrastructure will be destroyed."Israeli ground forces are moving northwards slowly; this, combined with Nasrallah's words, could mean either of two things, as Stratfor notes:
"...from where we sit, the operation looks to be going slowly. That could be because Israel is moving cautiously to reduce Hezbollah positions with minimal casualties to Israeli forces. Alternatively, it could be because Hezbollah is putting up stiff resistance. It is hard to tell from a distance, but Nasrallah's statement seemed to concede what logic would indicate, which is that Hezbollah is fighting hard but is unlikely to win in the south."
An internal dispute has also arisen in Israel over how far, exactly, to push the ground invasion. Defense Minister Amir Peretz told Israeli forces to prepare for a push all the way to the Litani River; he believes that will be sufficient to negate the short-range rocket threat from Hezbollah. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, on the other hand, believes-rightly, by many accounts-that taking so much land will not negate the threat from longer range rockets. His position is somewhat at odds with that of his military; according to UPI, "Senior Israeli officers believe they succeeded in curbing with [sic] Hezbollah's long- and medium-range rockets."The unusual public split between the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense may represent political jockeying between the parties the two men represent. The historically hawkish Olmert may be trying to cement Kadimas standing as Israels centrist party, while Peretz seems to be trying to shake the Labor party's image as traditionally dovish, along with his own image as militarily inexperienced.Either way, Peretz's plan would require the approval of the Israeli cabinet, which it is unlikely to gain if the Prime Minister does not get onboard. The Israeli Cabinet has so far only approved the occupation of a buffer zone four miles deep.Counterterrorismblog points out a NY Sun report that says:
"[t]he Israel Defense Forces also says it has not been able to seal the border between Syria and Lebanon, making it possible to ferry men, small rockets, and other material to Hezbollah through the back roads and smuggling routes in the Bekaa Valley,"
This despite numerous air strikes, which appear to have closed one of the main aid pipelines into Beirut and one of the last accessible border crossings in the north, near the city of Al Qaa (Map here). Aid workers may be able to take side roads, but they will inevitably be slower to arrive where they are needed.Finally, diplomats at the UN seem to be inching closer to a resolution; Israel has some time to achieve its objectives. They will have to move quickly, though, while rockets continue to fly.-- Eric Hundman

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