IDF: We need two weeks to end Lebanon operation
Ground troops enter Lebanon for 'restricted, pinpoint attacks,' says IDF; 260 Lebanese killed in strikes.
The Israel Defense Forces estimate that 10-14 more days are necessary in order to meet the military aims of the operation in Lebanon.
According to General Staff estimates, it is possible to greatly intensify the scope of the attacks against the Hezbollah rockets, with special emphasis on their longer-range weapons, as well as strikes against senior members of the group's operational arm.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said on Tuesday, during a meeting with senior IDF officers, that attacks against Hezbollah would continue "without letup and time limit."
A senior military source said on Tuesday that Israel seeks "to significantly weaken Hezbollah but not crush it." He said that "it is impossible to crush a popular, religious movement."
The source added that had the government of Israel reacted differently to the abduction of three soldiers in an attack on Har Dov in October 2000 and behaved as Israel is doing now, it is likely that the attack last Wednesday could have been prevented.
Some IDF ground troops crossed into southern Lebanon on Wednesday to carry out attacks on Hezbollah guerrilla outposts.
"These are restricted, pinpoint attacks," an IDF spokesman said. "This is not out of the ordinary. This has been happening close to the border."
IDF troops have crossed into southern Lebanon several times in recent days to destroy Hezbollah posts, returning soon afterwards. The army has not ruled out the possibility of a major land offensive at some stage.
Assessments vary within the IDF regarding the effect that the assault on Hezbollah is having on the organization's morale, but Chief of Staff Dan Halutz is among those officers who believe that the first signs of cracks in the group are evident.
In Lebanon, reports claimed more than 35 people dead, most of them civilians, on Tuesday. The IDF instructed the residents of 28 villages in southern Lebanon to evacuate their homes and warned them of "accurate fire" against Hezbollah targets.
IDF estimates hold that some 60,000 Lebanese civilians have fled the south while many others have taken refuge in mosques in villages that Israel has said it would not attack.
Head of Operations at the General Staff, Major General Gadi Eisenkot, said on Tuesday that Israel views Syrian efforts to replenish Hezbollah armaments as a "grave" development, but does not intend to attack it or the Lebanese army.
He added that that "over the course of the last 24 hours, very successful attacks have continued, especially those of the air force but also other units, by land and by sea, in Lebanon."
"Until now, over 1,000 terrorist targets have been attacked, including 180 Katyusha and long-range rocket launch sites," Eisencott said.
Defense sources said on Tuesday that in the coming days action would also be taken to further damage the infrastructure of Hezbollah. The sources refused to offer details.
A day's fighting in the north is estimated to cost more than NIS 50 million.
Peretz instructed the IDF to enable as many factories as possible along the northern border to reopen so that damage to the economy can be minimized.
The Home Front Command will decide which factories have the necessary reinforcement to protect workers from possible rocket strikes.
Lebanese death toll rises to 260At least 10 civilians were killed when Israel Air Force aircraft bombed a street in a south Lebanon village on Wednesday, residents said.
They said more people were feared buried under the rubble of about 10 houses flattened by the strike on the village of Srifa.
Israel Air Force missiles continued hitting towns to the east and south of Lebanon's capital, as five big explosions reverberated over Beirut early Wednesday. At least 11 other people were killed in overnight air strikes on these areas, security sources said.
The death toll since the start of the IDF military campaign in Lebanon has risen to 260, the majority of the casualties being civilians.
The explosions appeared to be from hits in Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold badly devastated since Israel launched its military blitz against Lebanon last week.
In separate attacks, missiles also hit Chuweifat - a coastal town where several factories are located, just south of the capital, near the airport - and Hadath, a mainly Christian town just east of Beirut, local television said.
IAF warplanes also struck a bridge in the southern city of Sidon and houses in two other southern villages, local media reported. There was no immediate word on casualties in any of the air strikes.
IAF warplanes killed on Tuesday 35 Lebanese, including 13 civilians - all of them members of two families - and 14 soldiers. An armed Hezbollah operative and the driver of a truck carrying humanitarian supplies were also killed in Tuesday's raids.