The Path of the IDF
Ynet News has good coverage of the ground activity at Maroun al-Ras.
Head of the Galilee Division, Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch, met with journalists Saturday to explain the day's operations in Southern Lebanon. ... "We took over wide shoulders of land in Yarun and Avivim, where terrorists had been launching missiles at Safed, Tiberias, Carmiel, Meron and other areas," said Hirsch, explaining the significance of the takeover. "We took over the Jaladin ridge and Maroun al-Ras, where there was short-range fighting, and additional joint fighting with forces from the engineer corps. We brought bulldozers into the territory and destroyed Hizbullah outposts along the border."
The IDF also issued a warning to inhabitants of towns in southern Lebanon to evacuate in anticipation of further Israeli operations. The towns were ennumerated, and that lets us plot the towns on the map.
The 13 villages being asked to relocate are: Aitrun, Atiri, Barashit, Beit Yahoun,Bint Jubayl, Bleida, Einata, Hadatiya, Hirbat Salim, Kontin, Kharsat a-Talab, Majal Salim, Shakra, and Yarun. In messages relayed to residents of these towns, via both Arabic news agencies and local sources, the residents were informed that anyone not following the instructions to relocate to the north is endangering his life and the life of his family. The message also stated that Hizbullah tends to use civilians as 'human shields'.
Falling Rain provided an invaluable guide to finding these towns on the map. Some, perhaps due to variations in spelling, could not be located. But those that could are at the following coordinates.
|Aitrun||33° 6' 56N 35° 28' 20E|
|Atiri||33° 8' 23N 35° 24' 8E|
|Barashit||33° 10' 37N 35° 26' 45E|
|Beit Yahoun||33° 10' 20N 35° 25' 20E|
|Bint Jubayl||33° 7' 13N 35° 25' 57E|
|Bleida||33° 8' 23N 35° 31' 0E|
|Majal Salim||33° 13' 15N 35° 28' 0E|
|Yarun||33° 4' 52N 35° 25' 21E|
The map, looking north from the Israeli border is shown below. The towns which the IDF wants evacuated are marked with little flags. A pushpin marks the point where the Litani River suddenly turns West from its North-South course out of the Bekaa. Readers are invited to examine the ground in Google Earth or any similar program. Two things should be observed. First, none of the villages which the IDF wants evacuated are beyond the Litani. Second, the villages are all in central and eastern Lebanon.
In the previous post, Mr. Atos quoted a snippet from a Stratfor report in comments. Tigerhawk has the full text and analysis.
STRATFOR 072206: The Israelis have by now thought the problem through. They don't like operational compromises -- preferring highly focused solutions at the center of gravity of an enemy. Hezbollah has tried to deny Israel a center of gravity and may have succeeded, forcing Israel into a compromise position. Repeated assaults against prepared positions are simply not something the Israelis can do, because they cannot afford casualties. They always have preferred mobile encirclement or attacks at the center of gravity of a defensive position. But at this moment, viewed from the outside, this is not an option. An extended engagement in southern Lebanon is the least likely path, in our opinion. More likely -- and this is a guess -- is a five-part strategy:
1. Insert airmobile and airborne forces north of the Litani to seal the rear of Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon. Apply air power and engineering forces to reduce the fortifications, and infantry to attack forces not in fortified positions. Bottle them up, and systematically reduce the force with limited exposure to the attackers.
2. Secure roads along the eastern flank for an armored thrust deep into the Bekaa Valley to engage the main Hezbollah force and infrastructure there. This would involve a move from Qiryat Shimona north into the Bekaa, bypassing the Litani to the west, and would probably require sending airmobile and special forces to secure the high ground. It also would leave the right flank exposed to Syria.
3. Use air power and special forces to undermine Hezbollah capabilities in the southern Beirut area. The Israelis would consider a move into this area after roads through southern Lebanon are cleared and Bekaa relatively secured, moving into the area, only if absolutely necessary, on two axes of attack.
4. Having defeated Hezbollah in detail, withdraw under a political settlement shifting defense responsibility to the Lebanese government.
5. Do all of this while the United States is still able to provide top cover against diplomatic initiatives that will create an increasingly difficult international environment.
In response to Mr. Atos, I noted that operations in Hezbollah would also have an effect on Lebanese internal politics. It would change the balance of Lebanese internal power.
Enveloping the Hez in Southern Lebanon and pinning them against the Syria frontier also keeps them from exercising their customary power in the rest of Lebanon. This will empower the anti-Hezbollah factions. But the key to doing this is pinning down the Hez. It also has the virtue of blocking Syria out of Lebanon. With Syria and the Hez tied up by the IDF their natural enemies in Lebanese polity will be emboldened. Nasrallah can't really strut around so much after he's cut off from his main force. One unappreciated factor here is that this incursion is ironically the battle for the existence of Lebanon, but not in the way most would think. The recent display of Hezbollah firepower makes it clear that the Hez would have sooner or later become the Lebanese state. They would have taken it over. The IDF incursion makes it possible, ironically, for a consocional Lebanon to exist.