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Thursday, March 23, 2023

War number six ended with a shaky truce in Lebanon, but with a psychological and military blow to Israel

CSMS Magazine Staff WritersLong after the war is over, military analysts will have plenty to say about how, once upon a time, the so-called the invincible, mighty Israeli army was denied access to a land that the warmongers in Tel-Aviv thought they could conquer at will. If the five previous war with Israel since the Jewish state was founded on Arab land in 1948 ended up in humiliation and subsequent subjugation of Arab resources with tacit backing from Washington and a constant threat of obliteration of those who dare to resist, the end of the sixth one may send military planners in both Tel-Aviv and in the Pentagon reeling in their pants.The Washington Post claims that Hezbollah is “the best guerrilla force in the world, ” that defied the odds to emerge without a shred of a doubt as the guiding light and the reference point on how the Arab masses can fight Israel and deny it its objectives. History has long dictated that there is no high-tech weaponry that can overcome a people’s desire to be free from foreign domination. The Haitian slaves did it 200 hundred years ago against the “almighty” Napoleon army to declare themselves free at last after a long and bloody 11-year warfare, the Vietnamese did it against both the United States and China, in the town of Kuito Cuanavalle in southern Angola, a combined force of Cubans, Angolans and Namibians drove the invading South African Apartheid forces out of Angola and paved the way for independence of Namibia. And more recently, the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) swept to power by defeating the genocidal Rwandan army. The list is countless of those whose who have achieved the unachievable to put tyranny to rest.No one doubts the Israeli army’s capacity to inflict heavy damages on the civilian population.  “ [But] if there was just one Nasrallah in every Arab country –one person with his dedication, intelligence, courage, strength and commitment –Arabs would not have had to suffer stolen land and defeat at the hands of Israel for 50 years,” said Kuwaiti actor Daoud Hussein.After 50 years of living in the shadow of death, the Arab masses, at least in Lebanon, have overcome their fear to take on Israel head-on. The images from their daily newscasts of gutted homes, damaged bridges and runways, carpet-bombing, fires and a relentless loop of human suffering: young girls in pajamas, their limp corpses caked in dust; toddlers in diapers, their faces and bodies pockmarked with wounds; relatives digging with their hands in the rubble of destroyed buildings, trying to rescue survivors designed by the Israelis to bring the population to its knees can no longer work. But as the UN proposed truce drew near, Israel’s sustained military barrages seemed to indicate that it wanted to make the Lebanese civilians pay a heavy price for siding with Hezbollah. An Israeli warplane dropped a bomb on a funeral possession, killing dozens. It was gut-wrenching to watch crowd of men and women walking in deep rows, some lifting coffins wrapped in the red, green and white flag of Lebanon above their shoulders. One man with white hair and gray stubble carried a small bundle in his arms. He repeatedly bent down to kiss it, rubbing his tears on the flag in which it was wrapped.Samer Shehata, assistant professor of Arab politics at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University said Israel’s attack on Lebanon, its occupation of Palestinian and Syrian land are at the core of the Arab-Israel conflict; and until that is resolved, “there will never be a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.”How did Hezbollah deny Israel entry to the Lebanese heartland?Hezbollah’s irregular fighters stood off the modern Israeli army for a month in the hills of southern Lebanon thanks to extraordinary zeal and secrecy, rigorous training, tight controls over the population, and a steady flow of Iranian money to acquire effective weaponry, according to informed assessments in Lebanon and Israel.Because Hezbollah was entrenched in friendly Shiite-inhabited villages and underground bunkers constructed in secret over several years, a withering Israeli air campaign and a tank-led ground assault were unable to establish full control over a border strip and sweep it clear of Hezbollah guerrillas—Israel’s main of the war. Largely as a result, the U.N. Security Council resolution approved unanimously Friday night fell short of the original objectives laid out by Israel and the Bush administration when the conflict began on July 12.According to an article from the Washington Post, Hezbollah’s staying power on the battlefield came from a classic fish-in-the-sea advantage enjoyed by guerrillas on their home ground, hiding in their own villages and aided by their relatives. Hasan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, summed up the guerrilla strategy in a televised address during the conflict when he said, “We are not a regular army and we will not fight like a regular army.”The group’s battlefield resilience also came from an unusual combination of zeal and disciplined military science, the article continues. The fighters’ Islamic faith and intense indoctrination reduced their fear of death, he noted, giving them an advantage in close-quarters combat and in braving air-strikes to move munitions from post to post. Hezbollah leaders also enhanced fighters’ willingness to risk death by establishing the Martyr’s Institute, with an office in Tehran, that guarantees living stipends and education fees for the families of fighters who die on the front.“If you are waiting for a white flag coming out of the Hezbollah bunker, I can assure you it won’t come,” Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, a member of the Israeli army’s general staff, said in a briefing for reporters in the northern Israeli village of Gosherim. “They are extremists, they will go all the way.”Jonathan Finer, foreign correspondent for the Post said that Hezbollah’s military leadership carefully studied military history, including the Vietnam War. According to a Lebanese expert, Hezbollah has set up a training program with help from Iranian intelligence and military officers with years of experience in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. The training was matched to weapons that proved effective against Israeli tanks, he added, including the Merkava main battle tank with advanced armor plating.Wire-guided and laser-guided antitank missiles were the most effective and deadly Hezbollah weapons, according to Israeli military officers and soldiers. A review of Israel Defense Forces records showed that the majority of Israeli combat deaths resulted from missile hits on armored vehicles—or on buildings where Israeli soldiers set up observation posts or conducted searches.Most of the antitank missiles, Israeli officers noted, could be dragged out of caches and quickly fired with two- or three-man launching teams at distances of 3,200 yards or more from their targets. One of the most effective was the Russian-designed Sagger 2, a wire-guided missile with a range of 550 to 3,200 yards.Fawaz Trabulsi, a Lebanese professor who helped lead Palestinian-allied militia forces against the Israeli army in 1982, noted that Hezbollah’s fight has differed in several respects from that mounted by the Palestine Liberation Organization during the 1980s. In that war, Israeli forces punched straight northward and reached Beirut in a few days with only minor resistance, he recalled, saying Israeli officers seemed to think they could duplicate that performance against Hezbollah.One reason for the sharp difference is that Israeli intelligence had much less detail on Hezbollah forces, tactics and equipment than it had on the PLO, which was infiltrated by a network of spies, said Trabulsi, now a political science professor at Lebanese American University. “Hezbollah is not penetrated at all,” he said.Nehushtan, the Israeli general, said the Israeli military had enough information to appreciate the fighting ability and weaponry of Hezbollah as the conflict opened.In addition, Israeli warplanes have hit pinpoint targets throughout the fighting, presumably on the basis of real-time intelligence reaching the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv through drones and other surveillance equipment. Other observers, however, said the sweep of fighting over the last month — when Israel on several occasions said it controlled the terrain, only to continue fighting in the same border villages –suggested intelligence had not provided an adequate appreciation of the battlefield.“I think it’s no secret that the Israeli military didn’t have the intelligence on this,” said Richard Straus, who publishes the Middle East Policy Survey newsletter in Washington. “They didn’t know what Hezbollah had, how it had built up, what it was capable of.”Another difference that gave Hezbollah fighters an edge is the experience they acquired in combating Israeli troops during the nearly two decades of Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon that ended in 2000. In contrast, Palestinian guerrillas had gained most of their experience fighting Lebanese militias in the civil war here –using nothing more than assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades –and were unprepared and unequipped to resist the advance of Israel’s modern army. “The difference is in training, the difference is in weapons, but the big difference is that most of the Palestinians had never engaged in fighting Israel,” Trabulsi said. “They were used to fighting a civil war in Lebanon.”Hezbollah’s resistance to penetration by Israeli intelligence was part of a culture of secrecy extreme even by the standards of underground guerrilla forces. The code fit with a tendency toward secrecy in the Shiite stream of Islam, called faqih . It also fit with a sense of solidarity against others that Lebanese Shiites have been imbued with since the beginning of their emergence as a political force in the mid-1970s, when their first organization was called the Movement of the Deprived.French Major General, Alain Pellegrini, who will lead the UN force, wants reinforcement right away to hold peace in order to prevent it from deteriorating. We believe, as we repeatedly say in CSMS Magazine, that Lebanon is the main loser—for the Israeli bombings have pushed the country back to at least ten years—sending its people to an uncertain future in a still hostile world while living under constant Israeli threat and aggression.Note: Also go to the News section for more on the war in Lebanon.

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