MosNews – August 16, 2006
The 20 soldiers from Israel’s elite Golani Brigade moved through the darkness over the rocky hills of Lebanon until they arrived at the outskirts of this Shi’ite town that until last month contained 35,000 residents. The unit entered an unfinished house to prepare for combat within a few hours.
The troops, however, never advanced beyond their two-story hideout. Hezbollah gunners, believed to have been hiding in the ruins of Bint Jbail, spotted the Israeli force and directed mortar, anti-tank and machine gun fire that trapped the elite Israeli unit for 36 hours in an area thought to have been cleared of the enemy.
Russian-born Israeli soldiers said Hezbollah fighters were better trained and equipped than the Chechens. They added that Hezbollah’s tactics reminded them of Chechen rebels, The World Tribune daily reported.
“Hezbollah is tougher,” Vladi, an infantry sniper, said.
On Tuesday, Hezbollah escalated ceasefire violations and fired artillery shells toward retreating Israeli soldiers, Middle East Newsline reported. At the same time, parliamentarians called for the resignation of Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, who acknowledged that he sold his investment portfolio hours after the Hezbollah abduction of two Israeli soldiers on July 12.
Military sources said numerous Israeli combat units, without effective air or armor support, spent most of their time in Lebanon paralyzed by Hezbollah fire. They said hundreds of soldiers were often overwhelmed by as few as a dozen Hezbollah mortar and anti-tank gunners within sight of the Israeli border.
In all, Israel sent 30,000 soldiers to Lebanon. At least 118 soldiers were killed in the 33-day fighting. The military said 530 Hezbollah operatives were killed.
“From the point of view of the individual soldier, they are better than the Arab armies that surround us,” Col. Omri Bar-David, a reserve battalion commander, said.
In several cases, Israeli commanders, citing Hezbollah squads, dismissed orders to advance. The military reported the detention of five Engineering Corps soldiers, including a reserve company commander, for refusing to embark on a mission in Lebanon.
“There is a lot of confusion,” Anon, a soldier not involved in the courtmartial, said. “We go in, we come out. We go in, we come out.”
The 20-man unit from the Golani Brigade’s 51st Battalion arrived in Bint Jbail on Aug. 10. Hezbollah first disabled a Merkava Mk-3 main battle tank with an AT-14 Kornet anti-tank missile.
Then, Hezbollah gunners directed anti-tank fire toward the building that contained the Israeli force. The unit, which sustained eight casualties in Bint Jbail on July 26, huddled in a first floor bathroom, deemed the most secure part of the building.
“It’s been ugly,” Dudi Levisohn, a member of the Golani squad, said. “But it’s our job. We have to do it. We suffer so the people in Tel Aviv can enjoy themselves.”
Military sources said Hezbollah also forced Israeli units to turn off their communications and tracking equipment. They said Hezbollah deployed systems designed to identify a range of signals, including those of cell phones.
“During the day, Hezbollah sees us perfectly and we can’t see them,” another officer said. “The only time we conducted operations were at night because we believed our night vision systems were better than theirs.”
In another battle, an infantry battalion fought 24 hours to advance three houses in a Shi’ite village. The soldiers were pinned down by heavy Hezbollah anti-tank fire from a network of tunnels and bunkers.
“You don’t have to worry about bullets,” an officer, identified only as Eyal, said. “It’s the anti-tank missiles.”
Military sources said Hezbollah has been trained in guerrilla tactics by Iranian and Syrian instructors. They said the tactics were developed from lessons learned by the Vietcong in the war with the United States. “They have studied Western armies to see how we make war and they have prepared themselves for six years,” Yossi, an officer, said.
With the onset of the United Nations-arranged ceasefire, Israeli soldiers, particularly reservists, have expressed increasing criticism of senior commanders. On Monday, reservists were angered when Northern Command chief Maj. Gen. Udi Adam termed Hezbollah a terrorist group.
“They are professionals,” a soldier who returned from Lebanon said. “They have new weapons. There have been no improvement in our tanks in 10 years. Their mission is clear — to hurt us. And they can do this very well. Don’t say they are not soldiers. They are soldiers.”
Last updated 18/08/2006