IDF Says Army Leveling 1Km of Territory Inside South Lebanon

Objective is to prevent return of Hezbollah posts; IDF denies Hezbollah claims it shot down aircraft over Lebanon.

A senior Israel Defense Forces officer told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that IDF troops had leveled land inside Lebanese territory extending up to one kilometer from Israel's northern frontier.

The objective is to prevent the reestablishment of Hezbollah guerilla posts along Israel's border.

Earlier Monday, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that Israel intends to create an unmanned buffer zone in south Lebanon, from where Hezbollah has been pounding Israel with rockets for the past six days.

"One of the aims of the [military] operation is to establish a security area in Lebanon, without the presence of IDF soldiers," Peretz said.

IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz told the committee that Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has been in an underground bunker since the start of Israeli air strikes targeting the group's stronghold in Beirut.

"Sheikh Nasrallah is hiding in a bunker in Beirut beneath the ruins of the of the Shi'ite neighborhood. He and his aides have not seen sunlight since the start of Israel Air Force strikes last Thursday," he said.

Halutz added that since Sunday, "the IDF has been operating in a far more aggressive manner and is firing intensively in response to all of the rockets that are being launched at Israel."

It will take time before the military will be able to assess the effectiveness of operations in Lebanon, Halutz said, as "we have only been operating for about 100 hours."

The IDF chief reiterated that the IDF has no plans to send ground troops into Lebanon, and expressed the hope that this would not change.

"The Home Front must be patient," he said.

A Military Intelligence official who also addressed the committee said that the Palestinians had smuggled suicide bombers through the Philadelphi Route on the Gaza-Egypt border in order to send them into Israel to carry out attacks.

Committee Chairman Tzachi Hanegbi said at the start of the meeting that the IDF is "facing a challenge we haven't known for many years.

"The operation in Lebanon and in the Gaza Strip is becoming more complicated in light of the fact that there are abducted soldiers on two fronts. We must display sophistication, creativity and patience."