Hezbollah is being pushed out of its strongholds south of the Litani River.
The main battle today was on the outskirts of Bint Jbeil, about two miles across the border into Lebanon, where two Israeli soldiers were killed and 14 wounded, while doling out heavy punishment to Hezbollah. The IAF bombed the town heavily.
There is still some fighting going on in Maroun el Ras as Hezbolah attempts to hold on, but the Israelis have pretty much taken the Hezbollah mountain stronghold and are now consolidating their position there. A measure of how much control the Israelis now have over the area is the fact that they are now using heliocopters and the IAF to wipe out what's left of Hezbollah's rear guard there. During the battle for the town, the Israelis were unable to use the heliocopter gunships because of the danger of anti-missile attacks from the fortified tunnels.
The Israelis are also still pounding Hezbolah positions in the port of Tyre.
Some of you will remember that I wote about the `heroes' of Hezbollah using fleeing civilians as human shields. There was a confirmation of this from an odd source..noted UN Israel basher Jan Egeland, in Lebanon to coordinate humanitarian aid. A day after criticizing Israel for so-called "disproportionate" strikes against civilians, Fox news quoted Egeland accusing Hezbollah of "cowardly blending" among women and children.
Of course, that didn't make the wire services in Europe or certain MSM sources here...doesn't work with `IDF bombing helpless civilians in Lebanon' script.
So far, while the IDF has slowed the pace of rocket attacks a bit, Hezbollah's assault against Israel's civilians still goes on. More than 80 rockets crashed into northern Israel as of Monday evening, wounding about 20 people, the military said. The rockets again touched off brush fires in the town of Kiryat Shemona, which was hit by a heavy barrage in the afternoon.
Many commentators have been seen as crticizing the IDF for moving slowly into Lebanon. There's some truth in that, and some fiction.
The last time the IDF went into Lebanon, they used about ten times more ground troops than they are now. And it is certainly true that the IDF could call up reserves and push Hezbollah over the Litani in the scope of about twenty four hours, if they wanted to. Yet they have been taking things very cautiously.
Part of the reason the IDF seems to lack its old lightening speed is that they have had to get used to very different terrain and a whole new set of tactics on the part of Hezbollah. The IDF never dealt with fortified tunnels before in mountainous terrain. In a sense, this is the Israeli government's fault for allowing Hezbollah to consolidate major defensive positions without challenging them after Israel moved out of South Lebanon.Adjustments to tactics have been necessary, but the troops of the IDF appear to have adapted well to the changes.Winning the battle at Maroun el Ras was a major victory for the IDF and the key to the whole region. But it took some time.
Also, the IDF appears to have made a tactical decision to make a maximum effort to avoid both Israeli and civilian casualties so far as possible by letting the Air Force do a lot of the heavy lifting. They may also very well have been waiting to see the results of US Secretary of State Condi Rice's trip to Lebanon, per a request from President Bush.
As I reported earlier,both Hezbollah and the Lebanese government totally rejected Rice's position on a ceasefire as of today.
The Israelis were justifiably cautious about going deeper in to Lebanon, but (a) they have now called up enough reserves for a full scale assault (b) they just received a major airlift of militatry supplies and ammo from the US and (c)now that the diplomatic end of things is pretty much closed for now, they may very well decide to step things up a bit.
I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them do an end run around Hezbollah and attack from the North with paratroopers or amphibious forces,trapping Hezbollah on both sides of the Litani and pushing them towards the Syrian border...