IDF Conquers Hizbullah Strongholds, Continues Onward
IDF forces conquered Hizbullah strongholds, destroyed missiles batteries and located missile caches inside a mosque over the weekend and early Sunday.
By Ezra HaLevi
First Publish: 7/23/2006, 1:20 PM / Last Update: 7/23/2006, 1:53 PM
IDF forces took a ridge overlooking the Hizbullah stronghold of Bint J’bail Sunday. The village is northwest of Maroun A-Ras, the site of heavy battles, which was conquered over the Sabbath.
Maroun A-Ras was taken by IDF ground troops Saturday after days of fierce battles in the area. The Hizbullah bunkers in, around and below the village have all been raided and the IDF has now stationed troops in the village. Security forces in the area report they found scores of Katyusha shells, missile storage rooms and missile-launchers concealed in the village's mosque.
In addition to all residents of Lebanon living south of the Litani Rover, members of ten additional villages from which rockets have been fired were warned to evacuate their homes by 7 PM Saturday, ahead of IAF air strikes.
The Sayed al-Zahra facility in Sidon, run by a Hizbullah associated Islamic leader, was directly hit. This was the first time a target was hit in Sidon. Beirut was also hit early Sunday morning, with Hizbullah’s strongholds south of the city bearing the brunt of IAF bombs. A Hizbullah compound in Baal Beck was also struck, and the nearby Nabi Sheet.
Over the weekend, air strikes in Lebanon destroyed a building described as “Hizbullah Headquarters,” a half-dozen missile launchers, communications lines and a cache of long-range missiles, anti-tank missiles and guns. Several television broadcast facilities were also hit, presumably due to their complicity in broadcasting Hizbullah's Al-Manar television channel.
More than 1,800 targets have been hit by Israel's Air Force since the beginning of the Reengagement War.
Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said the air strikes will continue as long as they have to. "It takes time to hit at terrorism," he told reporters Friday. "We will fight terror wherever it is, because if we do not fight it, it will fight us - if we don't reach it, it will reach us."
Halutz added that Hizbullah has made a practice of using mosques to hide their Katyusha missile launchers.
Thousands of Israelis received their Tzav Shmoneh emergency call-up orders Thursday evening. Most will be taking the place of members of the standing army who will be headed into Lebanon in what the IDF brass is calling a limited ground invasion. As a result, in addition to the two million Israelis who spent this past Sabbath away from their northern homes or in bomb shelters, thousands more made due without their fathers and sons.
Responding to the extensive coverage of recent IDF casualities in both the print and televised media, IDF Commander of the North Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam urged Israelis to refrain from shedding tears for the fallen until the war is won.
"We have to change our way of thinking," he said. "Human life is important but we are at war and it costs human lives. We won't count the dead at present, only at the end. We'll cry for the dead and will encourage their brothers in arms. There are more places like Meron A-Ras, and unfortunately we'll have to reach them."
Asked the common question voiced by Israel's media - whether the IDF will become "bogged down in the Lebanese mud" - Maj.-Gen. Adam urged Israelis to exercise patience. "This is not a short story," he warned, "but it will not be never-ending either."
Meanwhile, in his weekly radio address, US President George W. Bush reassured those concerned that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's upcoming visit is intended to pressure Israel that Rice would "make it clear that resolving the crisis demands confronting the terrorist group that launched the attacks and the nations that support it."
Bush, referring to Syria and Iran, added: "Their actions threaten the entire Middle East and stand in the way of resolving the current crisis and bringing lasting peace to this troubled region."
MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), who is advocating immediate negotiations with Hizbullah, responded to Bush's statements that forcing an early cease-fire would not be prudent, saying, "We must not turn the IDF soldiers into Bush's cannon fodder."