"Mit dem Waffenstillstand beginnt der eigentliche Krieg" / As the 6am ceasefire takes effect ... the real war begins
Israel steht der härteste Guerillakampf in der Geschichte des Landes bevor
by Robert Fisk *
The real war in Lebanon begins today. The world may
believe - and Israel may believe - that the UN
ceasefire due to come into effect at 6am today will
mark the beginning of the end of the latest dirty war
in Lebanon after up to 1,000 Lebanese civilians and
more than 30 Israeli civilians have been killed. But
the reality is quite different and will suffer no such
self-delusion: the Israeli army, reeling under the
Hizbollah's onslaught of the past 24 hours, is now
facing the harshest guerrilla war in its history. And
it is a war they may well lose.
In all, at least 39 - possibly 43 - Israeli soldiers
have been killed in the past day as Hizbollah
guerrillas, still launching missiles into Israel
itself, have fought back against Israel's massive land
invasion into Lebanon.
Israeli military authorities talked of "cleaning" and
"mopping up" operations by their soldiers south of the
Litani river but, to the Lebanese, it seems as if it is
the Hizbollah that have been doing the "mopping up". By
last night, the Israelis had not even been able to
reach the dead crew of a helicopter - shot down on
Saturday night - which crashed into a Lebanese valley.
Officially, Israel has now accepted the UN ceasefire
that calls for an end to all Israeli offensive military
operations and Hizbollah attacks, and the Hizbollah
have stated that they will abide by the ceasefire -
providing no Israeli troops remain inside Lebanon. But
10,000 Israeli soldiers - the Israelis even suggest
30,000, although no one in Beirut takes that seriously
- have now entered the country and every one of them is
a Hizbollah target.
>From this morning, Hizbollah's operations will be
directed solely against the invasion force. And the
Israelis cannot afford to lose 40 men a day. Unable to
shoot down the Israeli F-16 aircraft that have laid
waste to much of Lebanon, the Hizbollah have, for
years, prayed and longed and waited for the moment when
they could attack the Israeli army on the ground.
Now they are set to put their long-planned campaign
into operation. Thousands of their members remain alive
and armed in the ruined hill villages of southern
Lebanon for just this moment and, only hours after
their leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, warned Israel on
Saturday that his men were waiting for them on the
banks of the Litani river, the Hizbollah sprang their
trap, killing more than 20 Israeli soldiers in less
than three hours.
Israel itself, according to reports from Washington and
New York, had long planned its current campaign against
Lebanon - provoked by Hizbollah's crossing of the
Israeli frontier, its killing of three soldiers and
seizure of two others on 12 July - but the Israelis
appear to have taken no account of the guerrilla army's
most obvious operational plan: that if they could
endure days of air attacks, they would eventually force
Israel's army to re-enter Lebanon on the ground and
fight them on equal terms.
Hizbollah's laser-guided missiles - Iranian-made, just
as most Israeli arms are US-made - appear to have
caused havoc among Israeli troops on Saturday, and
their downing of an Israeli helicopter was without
precedent in their long war against Israel.
In theory, aid convoys will be able to move south today
to the thousands of Lebanese Shia trapped in their
villages but no one knows whether the Hizbollah will
wait for several days - they, like the Israelis, are
physically tired - to allow that help to reach the
Atrocities continue across Lebanon, the most recent
being the attack on a convoy of cars carrying 600
Christian families from the southern town of Marjayoun.
Led by soldiers of the Lebanese army, they trailed
north on Saturday up the Bekaa valley only to be
assaulted by Israeli aircraft. At least seven were
killed, including the wife of the mayor, a Christian
woman who was decapitated by a missile that hit her
In west Beirut yesterday, the Israeli air force
destroyed eight apartment blocks in which six families
were living. Twelve civilians were killed in southern
Lebanon, including a mother, her children and their
An Israeli was killed by Hizballoh's continued Katyusha
fire across the border. The guerrilla army -
"terrorists" to the Israelis and Americans but
increasingly heroes across the Muslim world - have many
dead to avenge, although their leadership seems less
interested in exacting an eye for an eye and far more
eager to strike at Israel's army.
At this fatal juncture in Middle East history - and no
one should underestimate this moment's importance in
the region - the Israeli army appears as impotent to
protect its country as the Hizbollah clearly is to
But if the ceasefire collapses, as seems certain,
neither the Israelis nor the Americans appear to have
any plans to escape the consequences. The US saw this
war as an opportunity to humble Hizbollah's Iranian and
Syrian sponsors but already it seems as if the tables
have been turned. The Israeli military appears to be
efficient at destroying bridges, power stations, gas
stations and apartment blocks - but signally
inefficient in crushing the "terrorist" army they swore
"The Lebanese government is our address for every
problem or violation of the [ceasefire] agreement,"
Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, said yesterday,
as if realising the truce would not hold.
And that, of course, provides yet another excuse for
Israel to attack the civilian infrastructure of
Far more worrying, however, are the vague terms of the
UN Security Council's resolution on the multinational
force supposed to occupy land between the Israeli
border and the Litani river.
For if the Israelis and the Hizbollah are at war across
the south over the coming weeks, what country will dare
send its troops into the jungle that southern Lebanon
will have become?
Tragically, and fatally for all involved, the real
Lebanon war does indeed begin today.
* Published: 14 August 2006
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