IDF forces in southern Lebanon are continuing their wide-scale offensive Thursday, with the center of activity being the eastern sector, around the villages of Marjayoun and al-Khiam.
Reserve divisions are currently operating in the area, while the Nahal Brigade advanced throughout the day and is now only about a kilometer and a half (roughly a mile) south of the Litani river.
At this time, however, military officials are awaiting orders from the government regarding a sweeping advance north. A senior IDF officer told Ynet the army is prepared to initiate the deep incursion approved by the cabinet earlier and has applied the lessons learned in the four weeks of fighting.
Meanwhile, IDF officials are concerned that the many military vehicles that now enter southern Lebanon in order to transport supplies to the fighting forces will increasingly become a target for Hizbullah members.
Large forces are also continuing to operate in the western and central sectors in southern Lebanon. At this time, about nine brigades, comprising both reserve and regular forces, are active in these areas and are aiming to capture dominating positions in areas where Hizbullah terrorists are active, and particularly rocket cells. Troops are already about 12 kilometers (roughly 8 miles) into Lebanon – about 10 kilometers away from the Litani River.
During the day, an elite IDF force destroyed a rocket launcher in the beach area south of Tyre, while in the village of Aita al-Shaab reserve troops killed three terrorists. Another rocket launcher was destroyed north of Bint Jbeil, and in another village troops killed at least four terrorists.
Despite the extensive operations, the IDF has not yet started to expand its operation and move forces towards the Litani. Army officials estimated troops will need about a week to reach the Litani River, and another four to six weeks to assume dominating positions.
Military officials estimate that thousands of Hizbullah terrorists are still in the area, a fact that would lead to a lengthy, complex campaign. Meanwhile, large IDF forces are already deployed on the Lebanese border, with some of them undergoing training sessions at bases in northern Israel.
"We have plans that have been presented before the cabinet yesterday. If we receive the order to advance north…we'll know how to do it," a senior officer told Ynet, and stressed troops drew numerous lessons during the first month of fighting and will be able to apply them in any future operation.
Lebanon: Old lighthouse struck
Israeli warplanes have dropped leaflets over downtown Beirut, threatening a "painful and strong" response to Hezbollah attacks and warning residents of three southern suburbs to evacuate immediately.
"The Israeli Defense Forces intend to expand their operations in Beirut," the single-page leaflet read. It said the move came after statements from "the leader of the gang" - an apparent reference to Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who made a taped television address the night before.
Meanwhile, an elite IDF force uncovered and destroyed rocket launchers in the coastal area, south of the city of Tyre in Lebanon. Meanwhile, a reserves force which operated in the village of Aita al-Shaab killed three Hizbullah terrorists.
The IDF said a force operating north of the town of Bint Jbeil destroyed a rocket launcher in the village of Tamura, in the western district, and killed four Hizbullah terrorists.
Earlier it was reported that Israeli gunboats have hit a state radio relay antenna on an old lighthouse in the heart of Beirut, slightly wounding two people in a densely-packed residential area.
The tip of the disused lighthouse, in an open field in the Koreitem neighborhood of central Beirut, was damaged by the Israeli navy boat fire, according to army troops based in the area.
A senior security official told AFP Thursday that the old lighthouse included a relay for the Radio Liban state station. He said another relay station in the northern coastal village of Amshit was also hit by Israeli fire.
News agencies contributed to the report