Sunday, August 06, 2006

Haifa struck hard, Israel responds


The Israeli port city of Haifa was hit by six Fajr-5 rockets fired by Hezbollah today.
A barrage of Hezbollah rockets crashed into Haifa on Sunday, killing at least three people and wounding more than 40, officials said, in the heaviest attack on the port city since fighting with the Lebanese-based militia began nearly four weeks ago. [link]
In Lebanon, a video cameraman at Tyre happened to catch the rockets being fire from outside the city.hezbollah rockets being launched toward Haifa

All six rockets are shown streaking toward Haifa, though the first one is barely seen before leaving the frame.

Click to view the video - it will open in your default online viewer for MPEG files (1.8MB). You can also right-click and save it to your hard drive. The voice speaking is that of an Israeli officer being interviewed.

It took only a short time for the Israeli Air Force to respond. Its spokesmen reported that F-16 fighters destroyed both this launcher and another near Qana that had also fired rockets into Israel.

Analysis:

The day before Israel sent ground troops into southern Lebanon, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres said that the problem posed by Hezbollah "is in the air." Peres said,

Is Israel's objective now to destroy Hezbollah militarily?
Our objective is to stop the missile attacks by Hezbollah and enable the Lebanese military to take over and prevent Hezbollah from ever again returning to the border of Israel -- as the U.N. resolution stipulates. Our objective also remains the release of our soldiers.

What will determine when Israel stops?
When the attacks stop, Israel will stop.

Will there be a ground invasion of Lebanon by Israel?
No. The problem is not in the ground. It is in the air. If we create a buffer zone, will they get longer range missiles to fire from behind that line? What will then stop Hezbollah from getting longer range missiles from Iran or Syria?

Here is a key point: asked about the utility of an international force in southern Lebanon to stand between Israel and Hezbollah, Peres replied,

They are mistaken. The confrontation is not on the ground. It is in the air. If these U.N. forces can stop Hezbollah from firing missiles and rockets, that is one thing. If they are going to fight Hezbollah, fine. But there is no point to have people on the ground to observe the missiles flying overhead. That is useless.

No one expects that Israel can actually destroy Hezbollah, which is a political and social-network entity as almost as much as a military one. Hezbollah itself, as an organization, will survive and recontitute to some level after Israel's offensive actions cease. But in Israel's view, a defanged Hezbollah that is incapable of launching increasingly long-ranged, increasingly deadly rockets at Israel's cities is infinitely preferable to what Israel has faced until now.

That is why the Olmert government has insisted from the beginning that the war cannot be ended on the basis of the status quo ante bellum. If the status quo had been tolerable to Israel, it would not have counter-struck after Hezbollah's July 12, cross-border raid.

Hezbollah had been launching Katyushas into Israel for several years at the rate of a dozen or so per week. Evidently, Israel even under Ariel Sharon had decided it could endure that. (But, as Peres pointed out in his interview, the concessions it made under Sharon under the "road map for peace" plan were supposed to bring such attacks to an end. They did not.)

All that being said, I believe that the war began as the result of a series of lethal miscalculations on the part of both Hezbollah and Israel. Hezbollah has already admitted its miscalculation.

Israel has not admitted any miscalculation, but my opinion is that it has made three:

1. It launched its military response with strategic goals, but no real strategic plan to accomplish those goals.

2. It badly underestimated Hezbollah's military capability regarding training, equipment, supply, command and control and fortifications. This led directly to its third miscalculation.

3. It badly overweighted what air power could do.

More about these later.

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