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(UPDATED) The Israeli ground offensive has begun
Posted by: McQ on Friday, August 11, 2006

Or at least that is what CNN is saying. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, not happy with the UN cease-fire resolution, has ordered it to 'go'. That certainly is a pretty definitive way to say "no".
Gideon Meir, a senior Foreign Ministry official, left the door open for a quick halt to the offensive.

"If, in a couple of hours, such a resolution, which really is going to meet the goals as were spelled out by the Israeli Cabinet, the operation will be stopped," Reuters news service quoted Meir as saying. "We hope the diplomacy will prevail."
OK.

But let's talk strategy and tactics for just a second. This isn't going to be an easy fight. And, as I understand the Hezbollah plan for defense, it is to fall back to successive lines of defense with prepared positions. I would also assume, at some point, given the Israelis will indeed eventually overwhelm all of these lines of defense, they plan to withdraw across the Litani River.

So how does Israel a) accomplish its mission of destroying Hezbollah, and b) do it with a minimum of casualties?

Well if you look at the terrain, it is very broken and compartmentalized. Lot's of no-go or slow-go terrain. And you have over 100 villages or towns within the area below the river, connected by a road network.

One way to approach the fight is a broad front in which mostly frontal attacks would be the order of the day. Grueling, slow and casualty prone. Not likely to be the way to go.

Instead I envision the Israelis trying to get their armored forces into the game early, and they'll do that by attacking in two or three narrow points (mass) and punching through and past the Hezbollah defenses before they can react. The intent is to drive the two or three columns to the river, split Hezbolla into two or three groups which can no longer mutually support each other and get behind the successive defense lines, rendering them as useless as the French Maginot line in WWII. Bypassing strong points, they ensure they make the river and cut off Hezbollah's route of retreat.

They'd also drive up to Tyre in the west and establish a blocking position which allows nothing in or out and they do the same on the east to ensure nothing slipps in or out of Syria.

In the meantime, after blocking positions are established on the Litani River, another push from Israel with more combined arms teams begin the "hammer and anvil" operation in conjunction with air assets and artillery. Trapped between the two forces, Hezbollah finds themselves in an untenable situation where they can't run, they can't hide, they can't be reinforced or resupplied and they can't get the media in there to help spin the story.

Concurrent with this ground campaign, battlefield air interdiction (BAI) strikes are being flown against targets in the Bekka valley.

What a mess for them. Such an operation also addresses the third "T" in METT-T, "time available". As I pointed out in another post Israel doesn't have much time available as the rejected UN proposal points out. This sort of bold tactical maneuver may make the best of the time they do have, and may lead more quickly to the destruction of Hezbollah than other methods of engaging them.

Unfortunately there are no "cheap" options available for Israel. As even they've now acknowledged, their belief that air power would do the job early on has proven (as most knew it would) inadequate. This is going to cost a lot of IDF lives. But if they trap Hezbollah as I outline, they may be able to get a significant number of them to either surrender or quit. Cutting off all escape and ensuring they know it is a great motivator in that regard.

Let's watch and see how it unfolds.

UPDATE: As one of our commenters mentioned the offensive may have been undertaken to jump start the UN process and push it toward a resolution acceptable to Israel. That's pretty hard nosed negotiating if you ask me.

CNN is reporting that the Israelis are signaling they'll sign off on the draft cease-fire resolution. Specifics of the resolution:
The resolution contains a "very robust mandate" for the use of an international peacekeeping force, a U.S. State Department official said.

The draft also calls for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon.

In the Lebanese capital, Beirut, sources close to the negotiations said the deal would create a 400-square-mile zone inside Lebanon from which Hezbollah militia would be excluded.

The number of U.N. troops in the area would be increased from 2,000 to a maximum of 15,000; they would be joined by 15,000 Lebanese troops.

The troops are charged with ensuring Hezbollah doesn't operate between the Blue Line, which marks the Lebanese border with Israel, and the Litani River, according to the draft.
Immediate withdrawl, 30,000 troops in place with a mission of ensuring Hezbollah doesn't operate between the border and the Litani River and is, in fact, excluded from the area completely.

Yeah, if I were Israel, I could live with that. My guess is that Hezbollah might have difficulty with it though, so I'll further guess that Lebanon will reject it as written above.

UPDATE II: From Stratfor (email, no link):
The situation in Israel tonight has become extremely confused, verging on the chaotic. Government ministers, like the foreign minister and prime minister, are publicly feuding. The government is saying that the assault into Lebanon will definitely be rolling tonight while it has simultaneously implied that it intends to accept the cease-fire resolution. Leaders of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are demanding to be unleashed while leaks from some government members hint that they have no confidence in the military. The media has now surged into the battle with highly contentious columns and editorials.
Very unlike Israeli behavior in the past. Strafor goes on to note:
There appear to be two basic and competing schools of thought. One argues that Israel cannot defeat Hezbollah without incurring unacceptable losses and re-occupying parts of Lebanon, thereby winding up in a counterinsurgency situation. The other school of thought argues that the price of accepting a cease-fire that leaves Hezbollah intact is much higher than the cost of war.
Given what I've read about of Israeli public opinion I'd guess the majority of Israel falls in the second school of thought.

As I noted earlier to a commenter, the time between voting on the resolution for a cease-fire and its implementation may be enough time for Israel to complete its operation. Stratfor notes that this resolution has no timetable for implementation:
The cease-fire that appears to be on the table is rather extraordinary. It lacks a timetable and turns over the problem of disarming Hezbollah to the Lebanese government, which probably has neither the means nor the appetite for the job. In the unlikely event that this is achieved, French forces would then join the existing U.N. force. They would have the authority to actively suppress any breaches of the cease-fire. The argument against the cease-fire is obvious from the Israeli point of view. Olmert's view might be that accepting it means nothing since it has no time limit and the disarming of Hezbollah won't happen. Therefore, it allows Israel to accept the cease-fire without halting operations.
So Israel may indeed "unleash" the IDF while negotiating the final terms of the cease-fire.

Another interesting comment by Stratfor:
In looking at Israeli behavior — which has become the most interesting and perplexing aspect of this conflict — we are struck by an oddity. The Israeli leadership seems genuinely concerned about something, and it is not clear what it is. Obviously, the government doesn't want to take casualties, but this is not a political problem. The Israeli public can deal with high casualties as long as the mission — in this case the dismantling of Hezbollah's capabilities — is accomplished. The normal pattern of Israeli behavior is to be increasingly aggressive rather than restrained, and the government is supported.

When a government becomes uncertain, it normally reverts to established patterns. We would have expected a major invasion weeks ago, and we did expect it. Something is holding the Israelis back and it is not simply fear of casualties. The increasing confusion and even paralysis of the Israeli government could be explained simply by division and poor leadership. But we increasingly have the feeling that there is an aspect to Israeli thinking that we do not understand, some concern that is not apparent that is holding them back from doing what they would normally do.
I've had the same feeling during this entire operation. Something just wasn't right and the Israelis weren't acting right. One of the things I remember early on is how they avoided even talking about Syria. For whatever reason I'm of the impression that some of the uncertainty as to how they're dealing with this situation has to do with Syria.

A final thought worth noting:
Hezbollah has certainly achieved an extraordinary degree of success. It has fought IDF to a draw, with the Israelis clearly being concerned about the price of going up against it. It has also created an unprecedented political crisis in Israel, while its own base remains firm. Hezbollah's strategy has worked thus far, establishing it as the most effective force ever to confront the Israelis.
Well yes, but most of that, as far as I'm concerned is because of the way Israel has chosen to fight Hezbollah to this point. I'm not so sure Hezbollah has been that successful as much as Israel has chosen, for whatever reason, not to be.
 
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About FREAK’N time....(Editors Note: I am a Chickenhawk)
I think Israel might have wanted to do this a WHOLE lot earlier, or rther they OUGHT to have done this a whole lot earlier. This "Victory thru Air Power" approach has not been satisfactory in its results. Four weeks in and the IDF has not moved much beyond it’s Northern border? Not good....

Was listiening to the Rush Limbaugh Show, the host (Roger Hedgecock sp.-???) quoted an Israeli source, Labour, Likud-???, in saying that Olmert’s Government was presented with a plan that involved decapitation strikes against Hezbollah leadership in Beirut, a sea-borne invasion into the Litani River region to act as the "anvil" and an armoured thrust north from Israel to act as the "hammer" and that the government rejected this proposal. Yeah it’s their right to do so, but the current operations have seen an erosion of diplomatic, popular, and military reputation. I think Olmert made a mistake, IMO. Though the decapitation strike(s) would have failed, they were launched and 23 TONS of bombs later, as best we can tell Hezbollah is still be led.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Great analysis McQ.
 
Written By: Sean
URL: http://www.myelectionanalysis.com
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/749484.html
Ha’aretz has a nasty editorial on Olmert.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Meanwhile, a cease fire resolution is about to pass the UNSC.

Is the current thrust just a bunch of show?
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
Well D, now they’re F#(ked... Hezbollah is going to, plausibly, claim victory. Just on the face of it they stood their ground against the vaunted IDF and did something NO OTHER Middle Eastern force has done, stood toe-to-toe with the IDF and come out standing. Who knows how many losses they’ve really taken. Everyone "knows" that Lebanese civilians have suffered terribly. I don’t see where Israel is that much better off. Plus the International force is going to be under UN auspices, UNIFIL has done such a great job of keeping the peace in Southern Lebanon.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Meanwhile, a cease fire resolution is about to pass the UNSC.

Is the current thrust just a bunch of show?
Well there’s "passing" and then there is "implementation", and I’ve never known the UN to be real swift in the implementation scenario. So my guess is it is a way to ensure the cease-fire meets Israeli demands by taking care of Hezbollah themselves in between the two stages.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I did a little gaming of this a couple of weeks ago, and I figured that the Israelis would push armored forces up the Bekaa with airborne troops ahead of them holding critical crossing points/choke points; cut the coastal highway north of the Litani with a seaborne landing (a fairly small one); and push with mostly infantry supported by armor and air to empty the area south of the Litani. From Israel’s point of view, having Hizb’allah’s fighters running into central Lebanon, where they have little support, after defeating them militarily makes some sense: if there is a follow-on civil war in Lebanon, as seems likely, Hizb’allah would be in a position to lose and lose badly. Hizb’allah’s fighters would be demoralized and tired, much of their equipment would be gone and their resupply operations would be utterly disrupted.

In the end, it’s not that much different than what you came up with, except that I assume that Israel would rather let Hizb’allah run out of short rocket range than to spend the time and casualties to grind up the Hizb’allah fighters.

And Joe, let’s see if Israel agrees before we get too pessimistic. Olmert may or may not be a fool, but if he accepts cease fire terms that don’t get Israel most of what they want, he won’t be PM much longer.
 
Written By: Jeff Medcalf
URL: http://www.caerdroia.org/blog
I think that Heinz Guederian said it best, "Klotzen, nicht Kleckern !". (Boot’em, don’t spatter’em)
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
From Israel’s point of view, having Hizb’allah’s fighters running into central Lebanon, where they have little support, after defeating them militarily makes some sense:
Given the mood of the Israeli public, which, up to the Hezbollah attacks, has been mostly casualty averse, but is now indicating a willingness to bear the casualties to destroy Hezbollah, I’d guess they’d prefer to do it themselves within southern Lebanon.
In the end, it’s not that much different than what you came up with, except that I assume that Israel would rather let Hizb’allah run out of short rocket range than to spend the time and casualties to grind up the Hizb’allah fighters.
I guess the difference between our two scenarios is I think the will to "grind up" Hezbollah exists. Whether the time exists is another matter.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Here is a description of the bunkers that the IDF must fight through. Think Italy 1944.

Its fairly clear that Hezbollah has lured the Israelis into a well prepared killing ground. They may not even have committed their front line troops yet. Israel is a small country with great expectations of its army. A war of attrition doesn’t work in their favor.

Score one for the bad guys.
 
Written By: cindyb
URL: http://
I think has been a war of attrition as much because of Israeli actions and decisions as Hezbollah actions and decisions.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I think they made a COLOSSAL mistake in waiting so long. Now, chances are they will be stopped by the USA and the world community before they can accomplish anything.
More evidence that Olmert does not know what he is doing.
 
Written By: kyle N
URL: http://impudent.blognation.us/blog
Ehud is like Truman, he was SECOND-in-Command, to a powerful figure...unlike Truman I don’t think he’s done as well. This is not Israel’s "A-Team" here...
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Here is a description of the bunkers that the IDF must fight through. Think Italy 1944
I think you’re missing the point Cindy. If they punch through on three narrow axis and then head to the river, they get behind the bunker lines, and unless Hezbollah can think of a way to turn their bunkers around, once the Israelis are in the rear of those bunker lines, they’re as useless as the Maginot line was in France (where, btw, exactly the tactic I’m talking about was used by the Germans).

If the IDF does what Hezbollah wants it to do, then yes, you’re right. However my guess is they won’t cooperate with the Hezbollah battle plan. Static defense plans only work if you can keep the enemy out of your rear.

Kyle:
I think they made a COLOSSAL mistake in waiting so long.
I agree, but militarily you play the hand you’re dealt, and that’s why I think the IDF will do something like I’m suggesting.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
The IDF invented the concept of "Deep Strike" as we now know it. I would completely expect them to run the playbook quite like you’ve described, Bruce.

What I cannot think up is a case of its exploitation against a force like Hezbollah.

We’ll see if they can make more doctrinal history here.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
cnn.com is reporting that Olmert is ’ready to accept the ceasefire’..Lets see if Lebanon does so too...
 
Written By: Ivan
URL: http://
First take...Israel lost this war. Israel took substantial casualties, but attained minimal gains. It was the seeming inability or unwillingness to take casualties that tripped up the Israelis, IMO. All things being equal, losses are a function of TIME, the shorter the campaign the lowere the casualties. I don’t know hwo’se gonna take the fall on this Udi Adam, Halutz, Olmert, all three, but this has not been Israel’s finest hour.

Upon reflection it is, or so it seems to me, ironic that the one man MOST responsible for laying the groundwork for defeat can not perceive it, Ariel Sharon. His decisions in the 1982 Lebanon Campaign spawned the folks currently running Isreal, Olmert and Livni. Both came from more the "Peace Now" world than the world of Tzahal a la Rabin and others who had been in office prior. And of course, he chose Olmert as his deputy. But, in this life, Sharon will never get to perceive the effects of his poor decisions, made in 1982 and 2005.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
In the Lebanese capital, Beirut, sources close to the negotiations said the deal would create a 400-square-mile zone inside Lebanon from which Hezbollah militia would be excluded.
A 400 square mile zone? That’s 20 miles x 20 miles...hardly chasing Hezbollah out of Lebanon.
 
Written By: steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
And my question is, "Who’s going to keep Hezbollah out of this 400 sq. Mi. zone?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Joe - UNIFIL of course! They have a track record of success in exactly this area! 28 years in the Interim!

Here we thought Interim was a time period, actually it was the UN term for the geographic area in Lebanon where Hezbollah would be allowed to deploy.

 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Well UNIFIL is a good choice, I guess. Why break in a new group that’s going to fail utterly in it’s avowed purpose when you have an experienced team alreay in place?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Updated again.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I’m not certain the exact terms of the cease-fire are important, or exactly when it is imposed. Clearly, the Israelis are not going to have time to wipe out Hezbollah and they may yet lack the will.

The real question is this: When the terms of the ceasefire are violated by Hezbollah, will Israel respond immediately once again with overwhelming force? Will they be allowed to? Will they respond to the first violation, or will they sit and be henpecked until Hezbollah once again does something "outrageous"?

In a partial debate about the Iraqi war today with another person, vs. the benefits of diplomacy, it occurred to me that if the UN did even half of what it said it would in its resolutions, we’d probably actually be in pretty good shape, both in Iraq and with this Israel situation. The problem, as has been noted at QandO before, is that the terms only apply to the US or Israel.

If we get saddled with that nonsense again, than Israel will have well and truly lost. But if violations by Hezbollah of a ceasefire are actually taken seriously (even such minor infractions as, say, launching a few hundred rockets at a civilian population with which you have a ceasefire agreement, you know, the little piddly war crimes), then this is just a necessary political dance to demonstrate to the world exactly who is the dishonorable party here and rally much-needed support, both domestically and abroad.

The best case scenario for reading the confusion coming out of Israel is as a debate between those who want to pursue a cease-fire that they basically know with 100% certainty will be broken with all possible speed by Hezbollah, and those who want to skip to the part where they commit to an full-scale attack now. If this is the case, I’d say the most powerful argument against "accepting a ceasefire" is that history says it won’t matter what Hezbollah does, as long as they manage to hit mostly Jews. (Recent evidence shows it doesn’t even have to be entirely Jews; Hezbollah doesn’t even get penalized on the world stage for "friendly fire"!... against civilians!)

I don’t believe that best case scenario and find genuine confusion and disarray more likely to be the issue. But hey, it’s a scenario.
 
Written By: Jeremy Bowers
URL: http://www.jerf.org/iri
Speculation time — regarding Stratfor’s and McQ’s thinking that something is concerning the Israelis and making them hold back esp wrt Syria — what is this mysterious something?
 
Written By: Fredrik Nyman
URL: http://
," once the Israelis are in the rear of those bunker lines, they’re as useless as the Maginot..."

Assuming, of course, that the bunkers are fighting positions rather than shelters, and that any fighting positions are oriented in one direction. Why assume a linear defense line rather than one built around mutually supporting strongpoints with all around defense? Hezbollah has certainly had enough time, and apparently enough available expertise, to do more than simply recreate a Maginot Line. If they have prepared a defense in depth, that would certainly imply some preparation to cope with penetrations which outflank their positions, which would imply at least some all around defense.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Why assume a linear defense line rather than one built around mutually supporting strongpoints with all around defense?
Because of the way the defense line has previously been described.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Described where?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
News reports and analysis I’ve listened too on various networks for the last few days.

These bunkers are not fighting positions, they’re shelters. Hezbollah fighters emerge from them when the fighting has died down or passed them. That’s an effective way to ambush your enemy. But it only works if your enemy slowly advances and allows such a deployment. And, the fighters aren’t in covered positions, but basically in the open.

Moving rapidly through such defenses renders them much less effective because now the enemy can attack from two directions. Additionally it may eliminate subsequent fall-back positions as viable. Now they have to guess where the Israelis who bypassed them are.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
"News reports and analysis I’ve listened too on various networks for the last few days"

Any good ones in particular? The only ones I have seen are pretty vague and generalized.

"And, the fighters aren’t in covered positions, but basically in the open"

They seem to be doing a fair job so far. Why haven’t they built any covered positions? That seems odd. Do the existing buit-up areas count as covered positions?

Supposing the Israelis do punch through on a narrow axis, etc., do they have the capability of keeping this narrow corridor secure and supplying the troops at the northern end? Perhaps this is why they have been so seemingly reluctant to make such a push.

Then again, perhaps these fortifications are as formidable as the ones built by Iraq to stop desert storm. It’s all speculation on my part, anyway, since I don’t have access to what the Israelis know or to Hezbollah plans.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
My 2c is that the dumping on Olmert is overrated. Israel’s response has been confused because of an inhrently confusing situation - and frankly, I put more blame on the IDF than on the PM.

A massive ground operation wasn’t really available on day 1, unless Israel wanted to resupply entirely by air. It took at least a week to punch through the intial border fortification belt - not even clear the area, just capture initial key points like Bint Jbail. The IDF was also distracted by launchers firing from all over Lebanon that it had no immediate access to via ground forces. Halutz, general staff chief, seems to have genuinely believed he could shut the launchers down through the air and end the crisis. It’s not Olmert’s fault that he was told that this could be done - and there weren’t any better options on the table.

Of course, we went from there to Qana, and at the same time it became clear that a cease-fire would eventually arrive. The cease-fire is the only way out for Israel, because of the same reason ground troops were avoided in the first place - **there is no ground troop startegy for total victory** - and **there is no exit strategy**. Kind of like Iraq. Meanwhile, Lebanses civilian casualties almost directly equal political pressure equal a more restrictive final ceasefire plan for Israel.

So the IDF and Olmert have been forced to try to match their military strategy to the mad waltz of the cease-fire plans. Meanwhile, the IDF was *still* trying to subdue its initial security zone as of the beginning of this week. Don’t blame Olmert for the fact that the IDF probably wanted to subdue the security belt before expanding northward. Anything less would threaten their supply lines.

Even right-wing commentators have complained that IDF forces in Lebanon become vulnerable when they stop advancing, but the question has to be asked - where are they going? Full-country occupation is a dead letter. Partial occupation will - within weeks- become an ugly, PR-disaster, high-causalty attritional warfare. And the best they can hope for is reducing rocket fire, not ending it.They’re hemmed in by their vulnerability to political pressure, by the realities of asymettric warfare, by many things, but unable to become passive either due to the rockets bringing a constant desire for attack.

Olmert has acted wisely. A cease-fire that pushes Hizballah northward out of the security belt is the best they can achieve. He was pushed into this expanded ground operation by political pressure and military pride, the need to achieve a tactical and psychological victory. It might add a few percentage points to Hizballah’s temporary military depletion, and it might add a little more deterrence through their own losses, but Hizballah is not about to run out of men or weapons.

It’s true that Israel has been very, very cautious about Syria. My guess is that they are concerned for Assad’s stability. I’d take their word for it. A coup d’etat against Assad would turn this situation upside down in a big way. Syria has a lot of chemical weapons.



 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Any good ones in particular? The only ones I have seen are pretty vague and generalized.
A couple Israeli generals interviewed a few days ago is where I got the bulk of the info.
They seem to be doing a fair job so far. Why haven’t they built any covered positions? That seems odd. Do the existing buit-up areas count as covered positions?
Because covered fighting positions would be found (UAV), pinpointed and then, eventually, point to the bunkers that fed them.
Supposing the Israelis do punch through on a narrow axis, etc., do they have the capability of keeping this narrow corridor secure and supplying the troops at the northern end? Perhaps this is why they have been so seemingly reluctant to make such a push.
We’re talking 20 miles. In relative terms that’s no-sweat for resupply, especially by air. A couple secure air corridors is all they need (ingress and egress).
Then again, perhaps these fortifications are as formidable as the ones built by Iraq to stop desert storm. It’s all speculation on my part, anyway, since I don’t have access to what the Israelis know or to Hezbollah plans.
It appears the Hezbollah plan is strong point defense, but in successive lines. If you get behind them they end up with two eventual choices - surrender or DIP (die in place).
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
If I’m following the strategy correctly, the Israeli plan is probably to punch past the bunkers, circle them from behind, and put them in a cauldron like a bunch of dumplings?
 
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://

 
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