Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Israeli Way Of War

Michael Totten has a superb post on how the IDF plays by the rules and attempts to conduct itself with morality against an enemy that has none:

An Israeli intelligence officer led me to this concealed yet sweltering viewpoint near the border fence overlooking Lebanon where Hezbollah guerrillas were busy fortifying positions for the next round of conflict, a round that will almost certainly be bloodier and more destructive for both sides than the last. A small green valley covered with Mediterranean scrub stood between us and the Party of God.

“Four years ago you could easily see Hezbollah positions and bunkers from here,” she said. “Now you can’t. Hezbollah pretends to respect United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, but that’s just their public face. Their posts are now hidden in houses and mosques.”

A young soldier standing watch handed me a small glass of coffee with no cream or sugar. Tea is the preferred social and professional lubricant in most of the Middle East, but most Israelis and Lebanese I’ve interviewed prefer coffee.

“Do you know which houses Hezbollah is in?” I said.

“We know,” she said and nodded.

It’s easy to monitor the border area from both the Lebanese and the Israeli sides, especially for those with high-tech equipment. In some places houses are built all the way up to the fence line in each country. Some Lebanese homes are even within shouting distance of Israeli homes. Both countries are tiny. Land is scarce all around. On most days nobody shoots at anybody, and besides—not even residents of Tel Aviv and Beirut are entirely safe from the worst that can come flying at them from the other.

Hezbollah had 10,000 rockets before the war in 2006. Now it has between 40,000 and 50,000. Some are stored in warehouses. Others are hidden away a few at a time in private homes.

“What do you think about the job UNIFIL is doing?” I asked the intelligence officer. I cannot tell you her name. She never even gave me her name.

UNIFIL is the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. It has been there since 1978 (so much for it being an “interim” force) to help the Lebanese government restore its sovereignty over the area, sovereignty that was taken away first by the Palestine Liberation Organization, then by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and most recently by Hezbollah. UNIFIL is supposed to keep all armed personnel, including Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah fighters, out of the 12-mile buffer zone between the border and the Litani River.

“UNIFIL is trying,” she said, “but they are having a hard time. Hezbollah puts large stones on the road to block UNIFIL’s trucks, and there’s nothing UNIFIL can do about it. It’s difficult for them to enter Shia villages now.”

There’s not much visible evidence in these villages that Hezbollah is doing anything. Its fighters and officers wear no uniforms. Only rarely do they carry guns out in the open. Israeli intelligence officers can spot them regardless, and they know of literally thousands of small military positions in nearby villages and in the rural landscape surrounding the villages.

“They’re storing huge amounts of C2 explosives next to clinics, schools, and mosques,” she said. “It’s terrible that Hezbollah is doing all this in civilian areas and sabotaging the new order in Lebanon. It’s sad, not just for Israel, but also for Lebanon.”

I left her there and drove to another location on the border not far from the Israeli town of Metulla which directly faces the Lebanese town of Kfar Kila. There I met with a spokesperson for the IDF Northern Command.

“Hezbollah is choosing where the next war will be,” she said, “by placing launch sites and weapons next to mosques and clinics. They know we get in trouble if we bomb those locations. Now whenever we think of targeting places like that, an alert goes up in our system.” {...}

I’ve never been to a Hezbollah training camp, although I did ask Hezbollah officials if I could see one before they blacklisted me for “writing against the party.” They refused. Still, I’m certain they don’t have dummies representing civilians who aren’t to be touched.

The Israelis do, though. They place mannequins on the grounds dressed in the clothes of civilians and peacekeepers as well as enemy soldiers and terrorists.

Read the whole thing,and feast on Totten's remarkable photos...one of which I put at the top of this article showing the Israeli/Lebanese border.

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