Robert Fisk: Now the real war begins


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Robert Fisk: As the 6am ceasefire takes effect... the real war begins
Published: 14 August 2006

The real war in Lebanon begins today. The world may believe - and Israel may 
believe - that the UN ceasefire due to come into effect at 6am today will mark 
the beginning of the end of the latest dirty war in Lebanon after up to 1,000 
Lebanese civilians and more than 30 Israeli civilians have been killed. But the 
reality is quite different and will suffer no such self-delusion: the Israeli 
army, reeling under the Hizbollah's onslaught of the past 24 hours, is now 
facing the harshest guerrilla war in its history. And it is a war they may well 

In all, at least 39 - possibly 43 - Israeli soldiers have been killed in the 
past day as Hizbollah guerrillas, still launching missiles into Israel itself, 
have fought back against Israel's massive land invasion into Lebanon.

Israeli military authorities talked of "cleaning" and "mopping up" operations by
their soldiers south of the Litani river but, to the Lebanese, it seems as if it
is the Hizbollah that have been doing the "mopping up". By last night, the 
Israelis had not even been able to reach the dead crew of a helicopter - shot 
down on Saturday night - which crashed into a Lebanese valley.

Officially, Israel has now accepted the UN ceasefire that calls for an end to 
all Israeli offensive military operations and Hizbollah attacks, and the 
Hizbollah have stated that they will abide by the ceasefire - providing no 
Israeli troops remain inside Lebanon. But 10,000 Israeli soldiers - the Israelis
even suggest 30,000, although no one in Beirut takes that seriously - have now 
entered the country and every one of them is a Hizbollah target.

From this morning, Hizbollah's operations will be directed solely against the 
invasion force. And the Israelis cannot afford to lose 40 men a day. Unable to 
shoot down the Israeli F-16 aircraft that have laid waste to much of Lebanon, 
the Hizbollah have, for years, prayed and longed and waited for the moment when 
they could attack the Israeli army on the ground.

Now they are set to put their long-planned campaign into operation. Thousands of
their members remain alive and armed in the ruined hill villages of southern 
Lebanon for just this moment and, only hours after their leader, Sayed Hassan 
Nasrallah, warned Israel on Saturday that his men were waiting for them on the 
banks of the Litani river, the Hizbollah sprang their trap, killing more than 20
Israeli soldiers in less than three hours.

Israel itself, according to reports from Washington and New York, had long 
planned its current campaign against Lebanon - provoked by Hizbollah's crossing 
of the Israeli frontier, its killing of three soldiers and seizure of two others
on 12 July - but the Israelis appear to have taken no account of the guerrilla 
army's most obvious operational plan: that if they could endure days of air 
attacks, they would eventually force Israel's army to re-enter Lebanon on the 
ground and fight them on equal terms.

Hizbollah's laser-guided missiles - Iranian-made, just as most Israeli arms are 
US-made - appear to have caused havoc among Israeli troops on Saturday, and 
their downing of an Israeli helicopter was without precedent in their long war 
against Israel.

In theory, aid convoys will be able to move south today to the thousands of 
Lebanese Shia trapped in their villages but no one knows whether the Hizbollah 
will wait for several days - they, like the Israelis, are physically tired - to 
allow that help to reach the crushed towns.

Atrocities continue across Lebanon, the most recent being the attack on a convoy
of cars carrying 600 Christian families from the southern town of Marjayoun. Led
by soldiers of the Lebanese army, they trailed north on Saturday up the Bekaa 
valley only to be assaulted by Israeli aircraft. At least seven were killed, 
including the wife of the mayor, a Christian woman who was decapitated by a 
missile that hit her car.

In west Beirut yesterday, the Israeli air force destroyed eight apartment blocks
in which six families were living. Twelve civilians were killed in southern 
Lebanon, including a mother, her children and their housemaid.

An Israeli was killed by Hizballoh's continued Katyusha fire across the border. 
The guerrilla army - "terrorists" to the Israelis and Americans but increasingly
heroes across the Muslim world - have many dead to avenge, although their 
leadership seems less interested in exacting an eye for an eye and far more 
eager to strike at Israel's army.

At this fatal juncture in Middle East history - and no one should underestimate 
this moment's importance in the region - the Israeli army appears as impotent to
protect its country as the Hizbollah clearly is to protect Lebanon.

But if the ceasefire collapses, as seems certain, neither the Israelis nor the 
Americans appear to have any plans to escape the consequences. The US saw this 
war as an opportunity to humble Hizbollah's Iranian and Syrian sponsors but 
already it seems as if the tables have been turned. The Israeli military appears
to be efficient at destroying bridges, power stations, gas stations and 
apartment blocks - but signally inefficient in crushing the "terrorist" army 
they swore to liquidate.

"The Lebanese government is our address for every problem or violation of the 
[ceasefire] agreement," Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, said yesterday, as
if realising the truce would not hold.

And that, of course, provides yet another excuse for Israel to attack the 
civilian infrastructure of Lebanon.

Far more worrying, however, are the vague terms of the UN Security Council's 
resolution on the multinational force supposed to occupy land between the 
Israeli border and the Litani river.

For if the Israelis and the Hizbollah are at war across the south over the 
coming weeks, what country will dare send its troops into the jungle that 
southern Lebanon will have become?

Tragically, and fatally for all involved, the real Lebanon war does indeed begin

Also in this section
 € Robert Fisk: Tea and rockets: café society, Beirut-style
 € Robert Fisk: If you want the roots of terror, try here

 € Robert Fisk: Hizbollah's iron discipline is match for military machine

€ Robert Fisk: What do you say to a man whose family is buried under the rubble?

 € Robert Fisk: Israel's promise of humanitarian corridors is exposed as a sham

Escaping the Matrix website
cyberjournal website  
subscribe cyberjournal list     mailto:•••@••.•••
Posting archives      
  cyberjournal forum  
  Achieving real democracy
  for readers of ETM  
  Community Empowerment
  Blogger made easy