IDF gets green light: Following nearly four hours of discussions, security-political cabinet ministers overwhelmingly approved the expansion of IDF ground operations in south Lebanon, after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert clarified earlier Monday in a speech that there would be no ceasefire in the upcoming days.
The aim of the widened offensive is to attain real achievements on the ground in weakening Hizbullah before the window of opportunity closes this weekend when the UN Security Council is expected to decide on ceasefire conditions.
Just hours after the conclusion of the meeting, witnesses reported that Israeli warplanes targeted the Hizbullah stronghold of Hermel deep inside Lebanon early Tuesday, despite Israel's 48 hours suspension of air strikes. Warplanes fired at least five air-to-surface missiles on the town, witnesses said. Another strike targeted an area near the Syrian border.The
All the lawmakers who participated in the late-night meeting, with the sole exception of MK Ophir Pines, voted in favor of widening ground operations. During the meeting, ministers were briefed on which locations the army planned to target and were updated on intelligence information.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni presented ministers with the low-down on the international situation. Among other things, she spoke of the assembly of European Union foreign ministers and UN Security Council foreign ministers slated for this weekend. These diplomatic processes, Livni said, would directly lead to a ceasefire.
On Sunday the Nahal brigades began operating in the area of Taybeh in the eastern section of the north border. Golani’s 13th regiment was also operating in the area. The IDF has selected a number of particular locations to target, which were hotbeds of Hizbullah activity, including launching rockets at Israel, operating headquarters to issue directives to Hizbullah members in the field, and storing weapons.
At the conclusion of the cabinet discussion, the stance argued by Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz to expand the ground offensive significantly in south Lebanon was overwhelmingly accepted. The cabinet approved a series of targets and operational plans. The army asked to operate across all of south Lebanon until the banks of the Litani River.
One of the participants in the meeting said that when the temporary Air Force ceasefire expires, IAF strikes would be renewed “in full force.” Israel called off air strikes for 48 hours following a bombardment which resulted in the deaths of dozens of civilians in the Lebanese village of Qana.
'Calm may be trap'
During the day Monday there were relatively few gunbattles between the sides. The IDF attributed this to the assessment that a large number of the terrorists had fled following the IDF ground incursion into Bint Jbeil.
However, “forces were directed to maintain highest alertness on the field, as the relative quiet could signify a Hizbullah trap,” a military source told Ynet.
The official said the boosting of ground operations was part of the IDF’s plan and was intended to achieve a maximum of accomplishments on the ground in the shortest time period. “As every day passes, we accomplish more and more and weaken Hizbullah further. Not everything is apparent to the eye, and this is good,” the officer said.
In addition to the military infantry corps operating in Lebanon, tank and engineering corps were also deployed. The army had also dispatched air craft to gather intelligence information in real time. Helicopter gunships were covering ground forces and firing when required.
Hanan Greenberg and AP contributed to the report.