Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Av 5766 - August 1, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











An Ongoing Battle

by M Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

Despite the fact that Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman, Bureau of Public Affairs, at the United States Department of State, announced on Sunday evening that Israel had agreed to an immediate 48-hour suspension of aerial strikes in the wake of the disaster at the village of Qana in Lebanon early on Sunday, Israel made clear that it was not a cease-fire and it was continuing the fight. On Tuesday ground forces entered south Lebanon and were operating on a broad front. Although the strategic goals were not announced, many observers said that it appeared that Israel intended to push Hizbullah north of the Litani River, about 15 miles into Lebanon and a natural border.

There is widespread talk of an international force to guarantee that Hizbullah does not return to Israel's border. However no one believes that the force would be able to force Hizbullah out. It is hoped that if Israel forces the terrorists out, the international force will be able to keep them out.

Optimistic observers said that the subterfuge in Qana indicates that Hizbullah wants a cessation of hostilities, and it tried to achieve this in a way that was successful in the past, almost exactly a decade ago. They adduced support for their view by pointing to the fact that Hizbullah rocket attacks were stopped on Monday and mortar attacks were sharply reduced. This could be a sign of fatigue on Hizbullah's part. Or not.

On Sunday morning, Israeli warplanes had attacked a large building in the Lebanese village of Qana before 1 a.m. and it collapsed about six hours later. The number killed in the building is in dispute. Residents said as many as 60 people had been inside. News agencies reported that 56 had been killed, and that 34 of them were children. The Lebanese Red Cross, which conducted the rescue, counted 27 bodies, perhaps 17 of them children.

Israel expressed regret at the deaths of the civilians and said that it had repeatedly told all residents of the areas that they should leave. Prime Minister Olmert said: "The State of Israel deeply regrets the killing of civilians during operations to halt firing intended to murder Israelis. Qana serves as a base for launching Katyushas against residents of the north. The goal was to strike at Hizbullah and not civilians, whom Hizbullah uses as human shields." Israel repeatedly told the people of Kafr Qana to leave the area, and accused Hizbullah of using civilians as human shields.

Close to 150 Katyusha rockets had been fired from Qana over the past 20 days at various targets in Israel (see illustration). Hizbullah hides rocket launchers in civilian buildings in the village. Video footage shown at a press conference on Sunday night showed rocket launchers being driven into buildings in the village following attacks on northern Israel. The video footage can be seen on the IDF website ( At the press conference, the air force presented evidence that Hizbullah could be to blame for the building's collapse, which was later repeated in English for the foreign press.

Israel's spokesmen struggled all day Sunday to respond to tough questions from the foreign press as images of children carried out on stretchers from the collapsed Kafr Qana building were broadcast throughout the world. It is the same village in which an Israeli artillery shell was said to have killed over 100 civilians in 1996 during Operation Grapes of Wrath that was also conducted against Hizbullah. Defense Minister Peretz said, "When Hizbullah kills civilians in Haifa, they see it as an operational success. But when we harm civilians, it's a failure."

Ten years ago the disaster at Qana brought an end to Israeli shelling in Operation Grapes of Wrath. Conspiracy theorists suggested that the disaster was staged by Hizbullah in an attempt to bring about another cease-fire. The Israeli attack was hours before the building was said to collapse, and the foreign press happened to be present in force just after the collapse.

Palestinians have staged casualties in the past. Footage is available showing "victims" of Israeli gunfire as they later got up and walked away. Hizbullah is very aware of the power of the press and it certainly plans actions with their media impact in mind.

This time around, Israeli politicians said that the lull in air strikes will give way to increased actions on the ground. Both the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister said that they are not interested in an immediate cease-fire and that the goal is to ensure that Hizbullah is so crippled that it is no longer a threat and the two Israel Defense Forces soldiers abducted on July 12 are returned.

On Sunday more Hizbullah rockets fell than ever: over 140. On Monday no rockets were fired into Israel, but several mortar shells were. They fell in open areas and started brush fires, but caused no injuries.

Hizbullah has fired more than 1,600 rockets into northern Israel since the conflict erupted. At least 300,000 of the one million residents of the north have been driven from their homes. Others have been holed up in bomb shelters.

President Bush said that the United States "will work toward a plan at the United Nations Security Council." But he reiterated his insistence that the plan would be one "that addresses the root causes."

"We want there to be a long-lasting peace, one that is sustainable," Mr. Bush said.

Former prime minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman Ra'anan Gissin said, "We need to keep up better and we need to be ready in advance. We need pictures to show the world what Hizbullah is."


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