IDF says free to hit Syrian ‘arms convoys’


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

IDF says free to hit Syrian arms convoys

Aug. 16, 2006

Despite the cease-fire between Israel and Hizbullah, the IDF is allowed to 
destroy Syrian weapons convoys that cross into Lebanon to reach Hizbullah 
guerrillas, a top IDF officer said Tuesday. At the same time, the officer said, 
the IDF will do its best to uphold the cease-fire until the newly upgraded 
UNIFIL deploys in southern Lebanon together with the Lebanese Army.

"We see ourselves allowed to strike at convoys moving into Lebanon," the officer
said. During the 34 days of fighting, the IAF attacked such convoys on an almost
daily basis.

On Tuesday, the cease-fire that went into effect a day earlier held, except for 
two incidents in which five Hizbullah gunmen were killed. The IDF said in both 
cases soldiers were defending themselves and it was doing everything possible to
uphold its end of the UN-brokered agreement.

Thousands of soldiers, mostly reservists, began to leave Lebanon as their 
comrades who remained inside took up positions in the old security zone Israel 
held until 2000.

"If everything goes as planned and the cease-fire agreement lasts, the last 
soldier will leave Lebanon in seven to 10 days," IDF Chief of General Staff 
Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said. A force composed of UNIFIL observers backed by the 
Lebanese Army is to begin taking control of parts of southern Lebanon on 

The IDF, a senior officer said Tuesday, was surprised that Hizbullah was abiding
by the cease-fire. "We predicted that Hizbullah wouldn't keep its side of the 
agreement and that fighting would start again," the officer said.

With the cease-fire so far intact, the IDF is implementing a two-stage plan, 
firstly withdrawing from the Litani River back to the old security zone, and 
secondly releasing the tens of thousands of reservists drafted to fight in the 

Another symbol that the fighting had ended was Halutz's decision to order his 
deputy, Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, to return to General Staff from Northern 
Command where he served as his personal representative.

With the war seemingly almost over, the IDF is now preparing for another 
grueling process - the investigations. Even if a full-blown state commission of 
inquiry was not established, Halutz said he planned to appoint a senior officer 
to investigate the IDF's overall management of the war.

"There are many questions that need to be answered, from the level of the chief 
of General Staff until the last soldier," the high-ranking officer said. 
"Everything will be checked."

The army is also preparing for expected negotiations for the release of the two 
reservists kidnapped in the Hizbullah cross-border attack on July 12. The IDF 
believes that the bodies of dead Hizbullah fighters it has seized as well as the
guerrillas it currently has in custody have improved Israel's negotiating 
position and could serve as valuable bargaining chips in the talks expected to 
be brokered by a third party.

Halutz also promised to investigate claims by reservists of a lack of equipment 
and training. Every reservist soldier, he said, would receive a special form to 
be used to voice their concerns.

Halutz also said the IDF "would not be an obstacle to the formation" of a 
commission charged with investigating the management of the conflict.

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