At UN peacekeeping headquarters in Naqoura, barely a stone's throw from Israel, political affairs officer Ryszard Morczynski said Tyre would become a target of intense Israeli attacks because Hizbullah was firing rockets from the city's suburbs into Israel's northern port of Haifa.
Hizbullah boasted Friday of a new kind of rocket it called the Khaibar-1 that it fired deeper inside Israel than the hundreds of others
"I have no doubt that Israel will flatten Tyre if civilian casualties continue in Haifa. Tyre will be taken off neighborhood by neighborhood," Morczynski said. "I think Israel is contemplating flattening villages, flattening every single house to deny Hizbullah any advantage of urban fighting in the streets."
He estimated that 80 percent of the roughly half-million people who live in southern Lebanon have already fled the embattled area. He also said he feared the civilian death toll in Lebanon was more than 600, well more than the official count of 400-plus.
'Hizbullah still strong'
"Hizbullah are still strong" 17 days into the conflict, peacekeeping chief, Maj. Gen. Alain Pellegrini told The Associated Press. Pellegrini told the Times newspaper that "a military victory will never be possible."
And according to Morczynski's calculation, roughly 800 Hizbullah fighters operate in the southern region on any given day.
"They are mobile, well-prepared, devoted and willing to act," he said. "When there is shelling ... they are not sitting in their bunkers."
The Hizbullah stronghold of Bint Jbeil attests to the group's tenacity.
"In Bint Jbeil it looks like the Israelis have pulled out and are now preparing the ground to come in again," Morczynski said, after Hizbullah fighters had pushed the limited Israeli ground force to the southern edges of the town.
'Hizbullah communication intact'
Also, he said, there was evidence Hizbullah's communications were intact and their fire-and-run tactics were still effective. There was no sign that the guerrillas' supply of rockets was dwindling and Israel has had limited success in targeting their launchers.
Morczynski said the peacekeepers occasionally intercept Hizbullah communications. He recalled a typical such exchange: "Allah is great. My brothers this is number 13 and we are going to operation number 7. We hope that our brothers are safe for the day." Hizbullah uses numbers and letters as codes to identify the fighter and the location.
Hizbullah firepower would seem to be a combination of sophisticated missiles and the older Katyusha rockets, Morczynski said. Some rockets are launched from the back of trucks, while older ones are ferried on motorcycles and fired from portable triangular-shaped launchers.
"They have thousands of them. They are scattered everywhere - in caves, houses, bushes, abandoned buildings. They aren't all in one, two or three depots that you can hit and say now we have wiped them out," he said adding Israel wanted to clear Hizbullah from a two-kilometer strip along its northern border.
"The only way to prevent the launch of rockets is to erase all launching positions of Hizbullah. That is the only solution," Pellegrini said. "But it is difficult."
'Large-scale invasion possible'
Despite the sophistication of the Israeli military machine, the advantage seems still to lay with Hizbullah, Morczynski said. While it takes the Israelis only about two minutes to target the origin of a Hizbullah rocket and retaliate, it hasn't stopped the barrage and it is unclear how many fighters have been hit.
The thrust of the Israeli attack is still with its air force but Morczynski said he anticipated a large-scale invasion if the hostilities continued.
"It is clear that if the pace of the war continues as it is today it will continue until the end of August," Morczynski said.
While Israel is reluctant to wage a ground assault, he said it would be unavoidable in another two weeks because the Israeli Defense Force will need a victory.
"Now the war is going on too long without any big success. Something has to happen soon because they have to show some success to the Israeli public," he said.