Galilee commander says if army didn’t make its message loud and clear with shelling in Lebanon Sunday, it will hit even harder next time; Hizbullah clears ruins of targeted bases
On the day after the drama in the north, the IDF is assessing damages on the other side of the border and hoping that their message was delivered.
“We hope that the operation’s message was understood loud and clear on the other side,” Commander of the Galilee Division Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsch told reporters in the north. He clarified that “if the message wasn’t communicated and there is an escalation, we will hit them even harder. We are ready for another battle day if it is necessary.”
Brig.-Gen. Hirsch expressed hope that the northern border would remain calm. He said the since the IDF finished its assault on Lebanese territory, there has been activity there to clear the ruins of the Hizbullah bases that were hit.
Sunday’s violence started over the weekend, after and Islamic Jihad activists waskilled in a mysterious explosion in Lebanon, which the IDF denied involvement in. But Jihad leaders promised a quick retaliation. Early Sunday morning Hezbollah terrorists fired at the border. Israel responded with its own round of shelling, and a long gunbattle erupted between the sides.
Hizbullah fell into our net
Hirsch defined Sunday's battles - the most significant day of battles with Hizbullah since Israel pulled out of south Lebanon six years ago - as highly successful. “I can say it is over and is behind us. To summarize, you might say that Hizbullah fell for the ambush we set, fell into our net. We awaited their attack, were ready and the moment they made a move – they absorbed a lot of damages to infrastructure and forces,” he told Ynet.
He revealed that during the battles, Hizullah fighters used children and even fired from the inside of a UN building. Meanwhile, the soldier wounded by Hizbullah snipers has taken a turn for the worse and is in serious condition, doctors at the Rambam hospital in Haifa said.
“Whoever tries to hurt us, we'll hurt him more,” Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday following a meeting in his Tel Aviv office with the defense establishment’s top brass to assess the situation on the ground. Peretz lauded the Northern Command, Air Force and other forces that took part in the battles and noted that the military response was forceful and decisive. “The message was understood. We won’t overlook any effort to hurt us,” Peretz said. He even met with regional council heads on the northern border to assure them that the army would do all it could not to disrupt civilian routine.
Early Monday, it was still quiet along the northern border, although tensions were running high. Commander of the Galilee division, Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsch, was busy planning force deployment to protect two weddings and two Bar Mitzvahs in Kiryat Shmona, and a basketball game in Nahariya. He promised council heads that the IDF would be ready on land, by air and by sea, to ensure the safety of the celebrations. Now starts a period of time which, for the defense establishment, will signify what is to come: Will there be more battles in the north, or are they behind us?
“We will be ready for the possibility that the combat will continue,” the senior officer told Ynet. “Hizbullah was hit, it was dealt a hard blow, but it is in their interests to continue the aggressions. If that is what they choose – they will continue to be hit. We are ready to continue fighting Hizbullah and if they escalate attacks, our responses will escalate too.” With that, the officer clarified that as long as they maintained the calm and the Lebanese government fulfilled its promises, Israel would not attack.
Day of battles
Over the past few months the Northern Command has been carrying out hasty preparations for a quick and decisive retaliation plan on Hizbullah bases south Lebanon, awaiting such an attack. The aim was simple: Employ various means simultaneously, disrupt the fire and deal Hizbullah a significant blow. “Preparations were made by consolidating means: fighters were sitting with their sights aimed waiting for terrorists to come while other forces were primed to attack all bases by various means. We took out a lot of Hizbullah bases, all those along the border including those built in the past few months in the west. We made an effort to hit the terrorists, rather than the structures. Every manned post was in our sights; they tried to put snipers on us but they got hit too; they aimed anti-tank missiles but they missed and our tanks hit their bases,” the senior officer related.
He said that during the battle soldiers saw dozens of children being sent towards the Tziporen base and throwing stones. Brig.-Gen. Hirsch, who led the fighting, instructed a direct hit on the sniper cell, and only after the children had gone were helicopter gunships sent to flatten the base. “They also hid in UN buildings, which forced our attacks to be chirurgic and exact. We recommended the UN take cover when the battle started. We didn’t shoot on any target where UN employees were present.”
He went on to explain the complicated motivations behind Hizbullah’s attack. “We must remember that they’ve been trying to kidnap a soldier for a long time without success. They want to erase the shame of the Rajar incident (when one IDF paratrooper killed four Hizbullah agents when the terror group attacked the north in November of last year). We must also remember that they are in a crisis situation in Lebanon, there is much patience for them there because they don’t let Lebanon develop.”
Iran’s involvement could be clearly identified in the preparation and equipping of the fighters, the senior officer told Ynet.