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Israel’s Home Front Main Arena of Hostile Fire Print E-mail
By: Jay Bushinsky
July 25, 2006


JERUSALEM -- For the first time in Israel's history, its home front is the main arena of hostile fire, its cities, towns and villages bearing the brunt of its enemy's abysmal hatred and obsessive contempt. Missiles and rockets trained on civilian targets as far south as Haifa and all across Galilee have been inflicting casualties indiscriminately and damaging civilian property - residential and industrial.

Except for the War of Independence which began in 1948, when the initial phase of combat took place in the Jewish sectors of Palestine, the front lines in the Six-Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973 were relatively far away from Israel's heartland -- in the West Bank, Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights.  Israel's soldiers fighting Jordanian, Egyptian and Syrian troops took comfort in the fact that the people back home were living normal lives completely out of harm's way.  That situation in itself motivated them to excel in battle.

The hostilities raging now in southern Lebanon between Israel's armed forces and the Hizbollah guerrillas, which are not defined by the government or military command as a war, (their official name is "Operation Change of Direction"), coincide with the launching of Katyusha and Grad rockets as well as Fajr 3 and C802 missiles at an average rate of 100 every 24 hours.  Hizbollah's ephemeral, but charismatic leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has said that the prospect of an Israeli takeover of southern Lebanon is of secondary importance to him as long as his personnel can keep up their projectiles flying.  He knows that they can wear down the morale of Israel's population, especially the 15 per cent (1.2 million people) who are confined to makeshift shelters all day and all night.

Nasrallah, a Shiite Muslim cleric who not only engages in secular politics, but also in military tactics, probably realizes that he has been waging a new kind of war in which rockets and missiles not only terrorize an entire nation, but also bring its economy to a virtual standstill.
 
If this strategy is successful it is likely to be repeated by other extremists elsewhere in the world and eventually will became the bane of the 21st century -- just as the hijacking of airliners, which originally was thought to be a technique used exclusively by Israel's foes, especially the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's terrorist cadres, inevitably spread to Western Europe and the United States. Israel's military commanders have an opportunity to relieve their country of the horrors of this scourge.

To do so, they will have to send thousands of soldiers into southern Lebanon under orders to seek and destroy Hizbollah's rocket- and missile-launching infrastructure in toto. This is much more easily said than done, however.  There were more than 10,000 projectiles in Hizbollah's inventory when the warfare began, most of them buried in concrete storage bins deep underground and heavily guarded by Hizbollah personnel.

One of the Israeli forces' biggest handicaps is the national nightmare fostered mainly by the local news media about the last full-scale invasion of Lebanon which was known here as "Operation Peace for Galilee" (another politically-inspired euphemism for total war).  "We must not allow ourselves to be drawn back into the Lebanese mire," say the popular pundits and off-the-cuff analysts.

This syndrome runs so deep that it has been offered as an explanation for ex-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's inexplicable silence about Hizbollah's systematic buildup of its ballistic inventory during the past six years.  Sharon, as then-defense minister, was the main progenitor of the Israel Defense Forces' last lunge across the Lebanese border in 1982 and their rapid advance northward to Beirut and beyond.  That operation also was provoked by Katyusha rockets, but the launchers were Fatah contingents of the Palestine Liberation Organization based in southern Lebanon at the time.  Sharon's assault forced the late Yasser Arafat and his men to evacuate to Cyprus and disperse throughout the Arab world (after which they regrouped and returned to this country in 1993 under the framework of the Oslo Accords).  In short, Sharon supposedly did not want to be accused of fomenting another Lebanese adventure.

The stakes now are very high, not only for Israel, but for the West as a whole. Hizbollah, which is allied with Iran and subscribes to its extremist ideology, has been acting as a model for its extremist allies.  Its bizarre military capability as Lebanon's last remaining armed militia, also is a threat to the Levantine republic's own national integrity and democratic aspirations.  The big question is whether the Israeli army, navy and air force still have the staying power and ingenuity to overcome Hizbollah's challenge to the Israeli state's survival as a safe and secure national home for its Jewish and Arab citizens.
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MGI News is the sole U.S. incorporated news and programming organization specializing in the Middle East directed by Jay Bushinsky, founding Bureau Chief of CNN Jerusalem. Topics from President Barak Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hamas, Hizbollah and more...

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