Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad, IDF Coordinator of Activities in Yesha and the head of the political-security desk in the Defense Ministry, made some strong statements today about the threat from Hizbullah and Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon. "The black predictions when we withdrew from Lebanon three years ago turned out to be rather optimistic," Gilad said. Three straight days of Hizbullah attacks against Israel led to the death of 16-year-old Haviv Dadon in the northern town of Shlomi yesterday.
Gilad said that Hizbullah currently holds three times as many katyusha rocket launchers as it did three years ago, and that they are designed to threaten Israel's northern communities. "Hizbullah's involvement in terror attacks in Yesha and within the Green Line exacted a much higher price than that which we paid when we were still in Lebanon," said Gen. Gilad.
In this connection, he mentioned the attack in southern Tel Aviv earlier this year that claimed 23 lives. It happened on Jan. 5, 2003: 15 Israelis and 8 foreign workers were killed, and over 170 people were wounded, when two terrorists blew themselves up 30 seconds and one block apart. Fatah claimed responsibility at the time - but Gen. Gilad said today that Hizbullah was heavily involved as well.
Israel responded to yesterday's attack with an air raid in Lebanon. This is not expected to be the sum total of Israel's response, but restraint will be observed. IDF Northern Command O.C. Gen. Benny Ganz said today that he is of the opinion that the Hizbullah was "made to understand" Israel's new rules Israel when its planes destroyed the terrorist organization's anti-aircraft guns yesterday.
Gen. Ganz and Minister Gideon Ezra met today with northern community leaders, who demand a significant IDF response against Hizbullah and Syria (see lead article). MKs in the National Union party call upon the government to impose a naval siege on Lebanon until it disarms the Hizbullah terrorists. Party leader Transportation Minister Avigdor Lieberman said this morning that Israel must present Syria and Lebanon with a 24-hour ultimatum:
"Israel must gather the ambassadors of the US, Russia and the EU and [say that] if the Hizbullah fails to remove its missiles [from within range of Israel], every Syrian target in Lebanon will be annihilated. And if rockets fall on Shlomi, all the residents of Beirut must be sent into bomb shelters, because the land of Lebanon will burn."
Residents of the north plan to protest the worsening security situation by darkening their homes for one hour beginning at 8 PM tonight. They will also not begin the school year 19 days from now as planned until they are satisfied that the pupils will be protected from Hizbullah threats. One of yesterday's Hizbullah missiles landed in an empty kindergarten. The decisions were made last night at a special meeting of the Forum of Front Line Communities.
Minister Natan Sharansky told Arutz-7 this morning: "I personally believe that we will soon have no choice but to give messages to Syria not only via the U.S, but also via our military."
Israeli officials said yesterday that there was a "wide variety" of Hizbullah targets that could be hit. These apparently include the following: watchposts along the border; headquarters in southern Lebanon and in Beirut; artillery sites throughout southern Lebanon, including anti-aircraft artillery, katyusha launchers and mortars; infrastructures such as power stations, roads, refineries, and water pumping stations; storehouses for long-range rockets - probably in Syrian-controlled areas; and Syrian targets - 18,000 Syrian soldiers are currently stationed in Lebanon.