VIDEO - The IDF indicated Saturday evening that it intends to expand operations in Southern Lebanon in its call to 13 villages in Southern Lebanon to relocate north of the Litani by the same evening. As of now, tens of thousands of Southern Lebanon residents have already left the area. The IDF plan to 'clean' the area of terror nests, using both ground and air offensives.
Many IDF forces stationed in northern Israel are preparing for operations in Southern Lebanon. Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, IDF Chief of General Staff, in his statement that, "a plane cannot raise a flag on a hill," implied that the IDF is planning an operation that can only be undertaken by ground forces.
The IDF has already begun to operate in several villages, including Maroun al-Ras, drawing heavy fire from terrorists. Saturday morning, an IDF infantry unit exposed a weapons cache in Marwaheen, containing anti-tank missiles and a machine gun with many bullets.
The 13 villages being asked to relocate are: Aitrun, Atiri, Barashit, Beit Yahoun,Bint Jubayl, Bleida, Einata, Hadatiya, Hirbat Salim, Kontin, Kharsat a-Talab, Majal Salim, Shakra, and Yarun. In messages relayed to residents of these towns, via both Arabic news agencies and local sources, the residents were informed that anyone not following the instructions to relocate to the north is endangering his life and the life of his family. The message also stated that Hizbullah tends to use civilians as 'human shields'.
IDF sources told ynet that different forces will operate in these towns in order to uncover Hizbullah infrastructure. "There will be areas where we will encounter terrorists, there will be fighting, but we are steadfast in our mission to uproot from this region terrorist activity that threatens the state of Israel," they said.
Expanding the operation, if necessary
Head of the Galilee Division, Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch, met with journalists Saturday to explain the day's operations in Southern Lebanon. According to Hirsch, "we are continuing to operate and expanding our grip of Hizbullah sites, hitting terrorists and taking over areas that were formerly under their control for years, while destroying Hizbullah infrastructure."
He elaborates: "Fighting is hard and is being undertaken simultaneously in the air and on the ground. The forces are trying to hit as many terrorists as possible. This is an intense offensive operation, in order to wrest the advantage of inertia from Hizbullah and improve our grasp on the area."
When asked if ground operations will be expanded, Hirsch abstained from giving a direct answer or exposing the existing deliberations. He did say that the IDF would expand the operation, if necessary. He added that, "although Hizbullah has suffered heavy losses, we're not at the end of the road. There's still a long way to go."
The general talked about the battle that resulted in the IDF's takeover of Maroun al-Ras, in Southern Lebanon, and said that "it was clear that the initial fight would require a great deal of effort, since it is a fight of deterrence. We hit many terrorists and very few civilians remained in the area. We found two civilian families, whom we are helping."
"We took over wide shoulders of land in Yarun and Avivim, where terrorists had been launching missiles at Safed, Tiberias, Carmiel, Meron and other areas," said Hirsch, explaining the significance of the takeover. "We took over the Jaladin ridge and Maroun al-Ras, where there was short-range fighting, and additional joint fighting with forces from the engineer corps. We brought bulldozers into the territory and destroyed Hizbullah outposts along the border."
Eli Senior also contributed to the writing of this article