TEL AVIV Ñ Israel's military has urged the government of Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon to order a major offensive against Hizbullah.
Military sources said the General Staff has concluded that Hizbullah has
embarked on a campaign of sustained tactical strikes against military and
civilian targets inside Israel. The sources said the military leadership has
warned the government that Israel's deterrence was being eroded against
Hizbullah as well as Iran and Syria.
"We're talking about maybe 500 Hizbullah operatives in southern
Lebanon," an Israeli military source said. "But they operate with impunity
and we are allowing this."
On Tuesday, Hizbullah snipers killed two Israeli soldiers who were
working on an antenna in their post along the Israeli border, Middle East Newsline reported. Israeli
artillery and helicopters retaliated by attacking a nearby Hizbullah outpost
in Lebanon and a Hizbullah operative was said to have been killed.
The sources said the General Staff wants Cabinet approval for a
widescale mission in southern Lebanon that would drive
Hizbullah operatives and Iranian forces from the area. They said such an
operation would also track and destroy the estimated 12,000 missiles and
rockets in the area.
"What is very important to understand is that a threat is emerging with
Iran, Hizbullah and Syria that represents an explosive that could go off,"
Maj. Gen. Benny Ganz, head of Israel's Northern Command, said.
"The Hizbullah terrorist organization continues to create provocations
backed by Syria and Lebanon, by means of belligerent attacks from Lebanese
territory, which is a flagrant violation of Israel's sovereignty," an
Israeli military statement said. "This activity comes in addition to
Hizbullah's relentless attempts to incite and aid Palestinian terrorist
organizations to carry out terror attacks inside Israel."
Hours after the fighting in southern Lebanon, Israeli fighter-jets flew
over Beirut on late Tuesday. The flights caused sonic booms over the
The military has been preparing a range of contingencies for a major
operation against Hizbullah, the sources said. They said the options include
attacks on Lebanese civilian and military targets as well as installations
"There is one address to Hizbullah Ñ and that is Syria," Israeli Health
Minister Danny Naveh said.
The key challenge in any operation against Hizbullah would be to expel
the Iranian presence in southern Lebanon. The sources said the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps's Unit 1800 has been responsible for the training
and equipping of Hizbullah in southern Lebanon. They said the unit has been
maintaining and operating Hizbullah's huge missile and rocket arsenal, which
can strike targets north of Tel Aviv.
[On Wednesday, Israel's Cabinet was briefed by Israeli military
intelligence on the leading military threats to the Jewish state. The
threats were said to be Iran's nuclear weapons program and the missile
arsenal of Hizbullah and Syria.]
The sources said the Sharon government, including Defense Minister Shaul
Mofaz, has been uncertain in determining a response to Hizbullah attacks.
They said Sharon has been concerned that a massive response would arouse the
anger of the United States, which has sought a commitment from Israel
against embarking on any military mission that could spark a Middle East
"We're hoping that Syria will intervene," an Israeli official said. "We
don't need another military front."