The 6am Ceasefire Takes Effect... The Real War Begins
By Robert Fisk
14 August 2006
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.
In all, at least 39 - possibly
43 - Israeli soldiers have been killed in the past day as Hizbollah
guerrillas, still launching missiles into Israel itself, have fought
back against Israel's massive land invasion into Lebanon.
Israeli military authorities
talked of "cleaning" and "mopping up" operations
by their soldiers south of the Litani river but, to the Lebanese, it
seems as if it is the Hizbollah that have been doing the "mopping
up". By last night, the Israelis had not even been able to reach
the dead crew of a helicopter - shot down on Saturday night - which
crashed into a Lebanese valley.
Officially, Israel has now
accepted the UN ceasefire that calls for an end to all Israeli offensive
military operations and Hizbollah attacks, and the Hizbollah have stated
that they will abide by the ceasefire - providing no Israeli troops
remain inside Lebanon. But 10,000 Israeli soldiers - the Israelis even
suggest 30,000, although no one in Beirut takes that seriously - have
now entered the country and every one of them is a Hizbollah target.
From this morning, Hizbollah's
operations will be directed solely against the invasion force. And the
Israelis cannot afford to lose 40 men a day. Unable to shoot down the
Israeli F-16 aircraft that have laid waste to much of Lebanon, the Hizbollah
have, for years, prayed and longed and waited for the moment when they
could attack the Israeli army on the ground.
Now they are set to put their
long-planned campaign into operation. Thousands of their members remain
alive and armed in the ruined hill villages of southern Lebanon for
just this moment and, only hours after their leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah,
warned Israel on Saturday that his men were waiting for them on the
banks of the Litani river, the Hizbollah sprang their trap, killing
more than 20 Israeli soldiers in less than three hours.
Israel itself, according
to reports from Washington and New York, had long planned its current
campaign against Lebanon - provoked by Hizbollah's crossing of the Israeli
frontier, its killing of three soldiers and seizure of two others on
12 July - but the Israelis appear to have taken no account of the guerrilla
army's most obvious operational plan: that if they could endure days
of air attacks, they would eventually force Israel's army to re-enter
Lebanon on the ground and fight them on equal terms.
missiles - Iranian-made, just as most Israeli arms are US-made - appear
to have caused havoc among Israeli troops on Saturday, and their downing
of an Israeli helicopter was without precedent in their long war against
In theory, aid convoys will
be able to move south today to the thousands of Lebanese Shia trapped
in their villages but no one knows whether the Hizbollah will wait for
several days - they, like the Israelis, are physically tired - to allow
that help to reach the crushed towns.
Atrocities continue across
Lebanon, the most recent being the attack on a convoy of cars carrying
600 Christian families from the southern town of Marjayoun. Led by soldiers
of the Lebanese army, they trailed north on Saturday up the Bekaa valley
only to be assaulted by Israeli aircraft. At least seven were killed,
including the wife of the mayor, a Christian woman who was decapitated
by a missile that hit her car.
In west Beirut yesterday,
the Israeli air force destroyed eight apartment blocks in which six
families were living. Twelve civilians were killed in southern Lebanon,
including a mother, her children and their housemaid.
An Israeli was killed by
Hizballoh's continued Katyusha fire across the border. The guerrilla
army - "terrorists" to the Israelis and Americans but increasingly
heroes across the Muslim world - have many dead to avenge, although
their leadership seems less interested in exacting an eye for an eye
and far more eager to strike at Israel's army.
At this fatal juncture in
Middle East history - and no one should underestimate this moment's
importance in the region - the Israeli army appears as impotent to protect
its country as the Hizbollah clearly is to protect Lebanon.
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.
And that, of course, provides
yet another excuse for Israel to attack the civilian infrastructure
Far more worrying, however,
are the vague terms of the UN Security Council's resolution on the multinational
force supposed to occupy land between the Israeli border and the Litani
For if the Israelis and the
Hizbollah are at war across the south over the coming weeks, what country
will dare send its troops into the jungle that southern Lebanon will
Tragically, and fatally for
all involved, the real Lebanon war does indeed begin today.
© 2006 Independent News
and Media Limited