Saturday, July 22, 2006

Is Israel preparing to launch a major ground offensive?

From the BBC:

Israel has called up thousands of reserve troops and told civilians to quit southern Lebanon immediately, amid threats of a large-scale incursion.

Israeli troops are already fighting Hezbollah inside Lebanon and have been heavily shelling the border area...

Correspondents in Jerusalem say it is understood the Israeli reservists being called up could fill in for troops in the West Bank and Gaza, releasing other soldiers to go up to the northern front.

The move has widened speculation that Israel is preparing for a large ground offensive.

I predicted the other day that "Israel will roll back its offensive before the conflict expands into some sort of international conflagration". I'll stick with that prediction, but I won't rule out an escalation of the ground war in southern Lebanon. One thing Israel knows is that it can't effectively dismantle Hezbollah's infrastructure solely through the air. Ultimately, ground forces will be needed -- if Israel's goal is indeed to do serious damage to Hezbollah (which has attacked Haifa with rockets again).

The BBC is reporting that "Israel [has] dropped leaflets on southern Lebanon warning residents to immediately evacuate an area approximately 32km (20 miles) wide".

But it may not just be Hezbollah that the Israelis would confront on the ground: "Senior Lebanese officials said the country's army would go into battle if Israel invaded Lebanon."

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UPDATE: In a more recent article, the BBC is reporting that "Israel has massed soldiers and tanks on the border with Lebanon".

See also the The Jerusalem Post and The New York Times.

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