Israeli general: troops in Lebanon should steal food, get ready for winter

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

  1. Israeli army backtracks
    Last update – 23:55 14/08/2006

    IDF: Comments attributed to head of logistics branch incorrect

    By Haaretz Staff

    The IDF Spokesman’s Office said Monday that comments attributed to Brigadier General Avi Mizrahi, the head of the army’s logistics branch, to the effect that soldiers deep inside Lebanese territory without food could steal from local stores, had not been made by him.

    Earlier Monday, Army Radio’s website had quoted Mizrahi saying, “If our fighters deep in Lebanese territory are left without food or water, I believe they can break into local Lebanese stores to solve that problem.”

    Mizrahi did tell Army Radio that if the army was “at war and there is a danger that the soldiers will not be able to carry out their operational mission like they should, and what they need is to do is to take water from a store, then yes, they can take it.”

    Mizrahi’s comments followed complaints by IDF soldiers regarding the lack of food on the front lines.

  2. IDF big: army may be forced to stay in Lebanon for months
    Last update – 14:25 16/08/2006

    Senior General Staff officer: IDF may be forced to stay in Lebanon for months

    By Gideon Alon and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents, and The Associated Press

    A senior General Staff officer said Wednesday morning that the Israel Defense Forces may be forced to stay in south Lebanon for months until the deployment of an international force.

    “The deployment of UNIFIL troops in south Lebanon is likely to take several months. It is not clear exactly how many. Until then, IDF forces will be forced to stay in the field,” the senior General Staff officer told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

    Foreign ministers of France, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia met in Beirut on Wednesday to work out details on assembling a 15,000-strong international force to oversee peacekeeping efforts in Lebanon.

    The UN says the 2,000 peacekeepers now in southern Lebanon can start overseeing the withdrawal of Israel Defense Forces troops and the deployment of the Lebanese army very quickly if all parties agree.

    But the UN hopes 3,500 well-equipped international troops can reinforce the UN contingent within 10 days to two weeks to help consolidate the fragile cessation of hostilities and create the conditions for IDF soldiers to head home, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hedi Annabi said Tuesday.

    The IDF withdrew some of its units from south Lebanon on Tuesday, and a senior UN official said it is technically possible to complete the Israeli withdrawal and Lebanese deployment in a week or two.

    “We hope that there can be an initial deployment of up to 3,500 troops within 10 days to two weeks,” Annabi said. “That would be ideal to help consolidate the cessation of hostilities and start the process of withdrawing and deployment of the Lebanese forces as foreseen in the resolution.”

    “But again, the initial steps can be taken even before the deployment if the political will is there,” he said.

    On Thursday, the UN is set to host a formal meeting of nations that have expressed an interest in contributing to a beefed-up multinational force in southern Lebanon, and the world body is hopeful that the first announcements of new troops will be made at the meeting.

    UN officials said Tuesday that so far, 45 countries have attended technical sessions for potential contributors.

    France, which is expected to lead the force, has not yet made an announcement though it has sent a colonel to New York to discuss the shape and size of the expanded UN force, known as UNIFIL. France also sent a five-man military engineering team to Lebanon to evaluate the state of roads in the south and determine what Lebanese troops need to deploy there, the French Foreign Ministry said.

    At Thursday’s meeting, potential troop contributors will be given drafts of the concept of operations and rules of engagement for the force. The rules include using “forceful means” against anyone trying to prevent the UN peacekeepers from doing their job, the senior UN official said.

    The troop contributors will also receive a list of equipment that the UN force needs – including boats to patrol the Lebanese coast, light helicopters for observation and larger transport helicopters, the official said.

    UN peacekeeping officials will also tell the potential contributors that they need up to four battalions with a total of between 2,000 and 3,000 troops, combat engineers, and signals, transport, medical, demining and maritime units, the official said.

    UNIFIL chief: Allow us ‘strong measures’

    The head of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) called Tuesday for the United Nations to enable his force to take “strong measures” in order to enforce UN resolution 1701, which brought about the Monday cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah after more than a month of fighting.

    In an interview with Haaretz, Major General Alain Pellegrini urged the Lebanese authorities to take responsibility for the disarmament of Hezbollah in the area close to the Lebanon-Israel border, saying that the responsibility for such a move lies primarily with them.

    When asked his soldiers would engage an armed Hezbollah activist, Pellegrini said that it was hard for him to answer.

    It was possible, he said, but it would depend on the rules of engagement. He said that he would prefer that the UNIFIL troops had the ability to employ “strong measures” to enforce the UN resolution.

    Pellegrini said he expects an advance force, most likely from France, to arrive in the region next week, in order to bolster the current deployment. Within several months, he said, another 15,000 troops would be deployed from a number of countries.

    Since its inception in 1978, UNIFIL has been classed as an emergency temporary force. Israel has strongly criticized the force, whose presence has never deterred Hezbollah or Palestinian militant activity in south Lebanon against Israel.