Despite the ceasefire, Israeli soldiers fanned out across the Litani river, and between 10 – 30,000 may remain in Lebanon, creating certain logistics problems. According to Ha’aretz, Aug. 14:
IDF general: Soldiers may steal food from south Lebanon stores
“If our fighters deep in Lebanese territory are left without food our water, I believe they can break into local Lebanese stores to solve that problem,” Brigadier General Avi Mizrahi, the head of the Israel Defense Forces logistics branch, said Monday.
Mizrahi’s comments followed complaints by IDF soldiers regarding the lack of food on the front lines.
“If what they need to do is take water from the stores, they can take,” Mizrahi told Army Radio.
According to Mizrahi, the logistics branch is prepared for the possibility that combat soldiers will have to remain in Lebanon during the winter.
From Ha’aretz’ readers’ responses to the article:
* Note to owner: You have just been robbed by the most moral army in the world.
* The troops also lack money and women. What do you say, general?
From As’ad Abu Khalil: (AKA The Angry Arab): “I remember in 1982, the people in the Tyre region were most shocked at the theft by Israeli troops. They would steal everything from houses that they would search: cigarettes, lighters, food, etc.”
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem documented the testimony of an Israeli soldier describing widespread looting during Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank in the Spring of 2002:
There was a serious problem of looting and vandalism. There were incidents in the past, when we took over houses. I don’t know why there were more cases in this operation. There was a feeling of war. Maybe the suicide-attack in Netanya [that killed dozens of Israelis on the eve of the Passover seder] upset everybody. There was a feeling that a certain threshold had been crossed. Maybe Ramallah blinded the guys. Televisions and TV converters – they took them or broke them. As for computers, it was unbelievable. The soldiers did the best they could to destroy and steal. They removed hard disks, chips, and sound cards. I heard about soldiers stealing money, but I don’t know about specific cases. Some took mobile phones and compact discs from people’s homes. There were soldiers who destroyed the insides of a computer and then put back the cover. I didn’t see a single computer that hadn’t been dam- aged. CD burners were stolen like hotcakes. Even whole computers disappeared. Platoon majors would bring trucks and load them up. It was all carried out in the open. The building we were in had sophisticated equipment – all of it was destroyed or taken.
While many Lebanese are greeting the news of a cease-fire with cautious optimism, the Israeli forces remaining along the Litani have led veteran Lebanon observer Robert Fisk to observe that “As the 6am ceasefire takes effect… the real war begins.” Writing in the UK Independent Aug. 14, Fisk opines:
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 lose.[…]
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.[…]
Which brings us back to Gen. Mizrahi’s claim the IDF may “have to remain in Lebanon during the winter.” An Aug. 10 article by Felix Frisch in the Israeli paper Ma’ariv, translated from Hebrew by the BBC Monitoring service, is titled “Senior IDF officers: We’re preparing for possibility of winter in Lebanon”
The IDF’s [Israel Defence Forces] grand plan to take control of broad swathes of southern Lebanon is underway. Yesterday, large forces were already moving forward in the eastern sector, on the way to the objectives that the cabinet approved. The clearest sign of the expanding and lengthening activity is the fact that IDF officials have begun discussions and conversations about possible preparations for remaining in Lebanon in the fall and winter.[…]
In recent days, preparations have begun in the divisions operating in Lebanon for entering deeply into Lebanese territory. From the IDF’s standpoint, this is a real entrenchment inside the territory. One of the central challenges in the event of a deep penetration is the logistical sphere: Until now, the troops in Lebanon have been receiving supplies once every few days by tank, armoured personnel carrier [APC] or helicopter, and have exited every three days for a break and to relax. Now the talk is about entering about 20 km, which would require the IDF to open logistical corridors. These are open and secured routes over which would pass not just APCs, but also trucks carrying supplies, ammunition and spare parts, which are only lightly armoured.
In order to avoid the threat of roadside charges along existing routes, the IDF would prepare alternative roads inside Lebanon using bulldozers, and would begin moving tanks and armoured vehicles over them. “We have a real problem with sending supplies to the forces,” a senior officer explained. “It is not possible to rely on parachuting equipment and landing supplies by helicopter, and certainly not on bring them in by llama, which was no more than a nice idea. In order to take control over a large area in southern Lebanon we must prepare roads for ourselves and create sufficient protection in order to move over them in relative freedom.” The new roads would be defined as a vital lifeline for the forces, and would be secured accordingly, through complete control of a relatively wide security area around those same roads. “Fortunately, there are almost no civilians in the are, and we intend to make it very clear that no one walks around in the vicinity of those roads, and that anyone who approaches them will be attacked and killed,” the officer added. “Otherwise, they’ll begin almost immediately to place roadside charges on them and to shoot missiles at us.”
So if they stay, Israeli occupying forces could begin destroying the southern Lebanese landscape, criss-crossing it with the sort of “bypass roads” it is famous for creating for itself in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Of course these roads will be cutting through Lebanse farms and villages, and farmers who need to attend to their lands or young children trying to reach their schools will approach these roads and will automatically assumed to be Hezbollah operatives and shot. The IDF will announce it regrets each death, but that the villagers were warned.
See our last post on the Lebanon crisis