THE Israeli Cabinet decided yesterday it was not going to wage a ground war in Lebanon in the face of the disastrous reverses at the hand of ferocious resistance by Hezbollah fighters.
Shaken by the number of casualties it has taken, the Israeli Cabinet said it was limiting operations by ground forces in favour of massive air and artillery bombardments.
The chief of Israel’s northern command, Major General Udi Adam said he expects the bombing to ‘continue for several more weeks’.
Israeli warplanes yesterday carried out raids on south Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley east of Beirut.
One policeman and two civilians died in the Bekaa, police said.
Israeli jets and helicopter gunships also hit a Lebanese army base and a radio relay station, and fired more than 400 missiles overnight at Khiam in the south, and destroyed several roads.
Hezbollah remained defiant. The head of political programmes at Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV station, Ibrahim Moussawi said: ‘Israel is a mighty army. You’re talking about a regional superpower with hi-tech weaponry.
‘But when you talk about resistance and determination and resolve to face and to confront this, yes, Hezbollah has the will and the determination to do it.
‘The Israelis have tried this before from 1982, which culminated in the year 2000 with the defeat of the Israelis and their withdrawal from south Lebanon.’
Hezbollah forces yesterday retaliated against the latest Israeli strikes with dozens of rocket attacks on northern Israel.
One rocket struck a factory near the border town of Kiryat Shmona.
The rocket barrage followed an air strike on the port town of Tyre, which destroyed two apartment blocks.
Israel yesterday claimed it has been given the green light to flatten Lebanon by the refusal of Wednesday’s international summit in Rome to call an immediate ceasefire.
Israeli justice minister Haim Ramon told Israeli army radio: ‘We received yesterday in the Rome conference permission, in effect, from the world – part of it gritting its teeth and part of it granting its blessing – to continue the operation, this war, until Hezbollah’s presence is erased in Lebanon and it is disarmed.’
He added: ‘Everyone who is still in south Lebanon is linked to Hezbollah, we have called on all who are there to leave. Bint Jubayl is not a civilian location, we have to treat it like a military zone.’
Meanwhile, Israeli divisions emerged after Wednesday’s thirteen Israeli casualties.
Prime Minister Olmert cautioned Israeli parliament, Knesset Members (MKs) to keep silent while the war continued after two outbursts on Wednesday.
MK and colonel in the Israeli army reserves Ran Cohen warned: ‘The war is leading us by the nose to sink deeper in the Lebanese mud.
‘The Hezbollah wants to drag us into its territory. The moment the army will be in Lebanon for an extended period, it will be hell for us in there.’
Retired general and Labour Party MK Danny Yatom said the initial goals of the Israeli operation were too grandiose, and the government now realised that wiping out Hezbollah was no longer realistic.