Repetition of the facts may be tedious, but it is important to note them: Even on the 33rd day of Operation Change of Direction in Lebanon, there has been no change of direction. On the eve of the cease-fire, as the Israel Defense Forces are advancing toward the Litani River, the Katyushas continued to rain on the Galilee. More than 250 rockets, one dead and scores injured.
In other words, on the eve of the war's end, one of the basic aims of the IDF operation was not achieved. The Katyusha attacks have not diminished. Yesterday, a television crew caught a Katyusha being launched not far from Metula, a distance of several dozen meters from Israel.
A number of reasons were given for the authorization of the ground offensive on Friday evening - despite the fact that the UN Security Council was about to vote on a cease-fire resolution: the need to hold forward positions near the Litani River so that during the cease-fire, searches of the villages could take place in a southward direction; the desire to influence the formulation of the UN resolution; and the need to be better positioned for renewed hostilities, should the cease-fire collapse.
Less than two days have passed, the IDF has suffered 32 fatalities and two of the arguments in favor of the operation have been shattered. The text of the resolution has not been changed because the Security Council voted immediately after the start of the offensive. And with the exception of a small area in the central part of the front, the IDF is nowhere near the Litani. In most parts IDF forces are nearly 10 kilometers away, with dozens of Hezbollah positions still in the area.
It's hard to do in two days what was originally planned for five days of intense fighting. Moreover, insofar as the army is concerned, in a matter of 10 days its forces will need to pull back to within 2 kilometers from the border. How many villages will be searched by then? A handful, because the army will be busy mostly with defending itself and waiting for the vanguard of Lebanese army forces to arrive, allowing the IDF to withdraw. In the next few days Israel's troops will be diminished with the removal of reservist units from the front lines, in an effort to cut back on casualties.
Could it possibly be, then, that Israel simply does not believe that this cease-fire can hold? The alternative explanation is even sadder: Is it possible that the dead soldiers, from the last few days, sacrificed their lives for the sake of the image of victory? Was this last-minute rush to the Litani meant to satisfy a pent-up military urge, building for two weeks now, to move forward? Or worse, was this operation meant to allow the government a political time-out before public criticism heightened over the limited achievements of this campaign?
Reference to the battle in the Wadi Salouki area is relevant here. In the early morning hours the battle ended successfully: A tank force crossed the river and climbed the steep hills to join an advanced infantry force in the push toward the Litani. Division 162 fulfilled its orders, and fighting in the area claimed the lives of 15 soldiers in the past two days. The first tank to cross the wadi was destroyed by a massive mine, and its crew was killed. Eight other tanks suffered anti-tank missile hits. Among the two dead are two company commanders. A battalion commander was seriously injured. The division describes this as "a historic achievement." Other officers wondered whether it was not possible to make do only with infantry operations, and why there were no consultations with officers from the Paratroopers and Golani forces, who in the past had been involved in bloody fighting in the area.
Where does this leave the reservists, in particular? They certainly have a belly full of complaints and anger at the way the war was run. How will they behave? We will probably only have the real answer the next time they get the notice in the mail that they have been called up.
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