Initial reports were of twenty injured in the latest attack on Haifa; the latest says it was only three eleven. But at least one of them looks to be in pretty bad shape:

haifa.jpg

According to someone interviewed by Ynet, the air-raid sirens went off after the rockets hit.

Two interesting strategic analyses making the blog rounds this morning. One, from the Washington Times, alleges a four-stage Israeli attack plan; the blockade is part of stage one and is intended principally to coerce the Lebanese government into sending its army south to confront Hezbollah. The other strategy comes from John at OpFor, who says the blockade is actually designed to trap Hezbollah inside the country so that when the inevitable ground invasion begins, they have nowhere to run. According to John, after smashing Hezbollah the IDF will occupy the south “until it is satisfied that the Lebanese Army is A) free from Syrian control and B) capable of holding the southern border on their own.”

Since the success of both plans depends upon the Lebanese government asserting its authority, the question of the hour is: is that likely to happen? This assessment in the JPost makes for sobering reading:

While there is debate over the military’s wherewithal, one thing seems clear: the chances of Beirut standing up to its thuggish stepbrothers are slim, at best. What’s more, experts say, Lebanon’s army – much as its government – may represent disparate and contradictory loyalties…

On Friday, four Israel Navy seamen were killed when the missile ship Hanit was hit by Hizbullah – which reportedly acted on information provided by the Lebanese army. With this in mind, can Lebanon’s military be trusted to act as a protective force in the south?

According to Ephraim Inbar, senior researcher at Tel Aviv’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, the Lebanese army’s role in Hizbullah’s attack on the Hanit is not at all surprising. “A large percentage of the [Lebanese] population is sympathetic to Hizbullah,” he said. “The army is not a cohesive force, and there is no strong political will. It’s more of a symbol of sovereignty than an actual tool.”

Tony Blair and Kofi Annan think the answer is a UN peacekeeping force for the southern part of the country, but Captain Ed dispatches with that inanity in short order. Peacekeepers wouldn’t move against Hezbollah, and Israel would be afraid to attack enemy positions for fear of inadvertently harming any blue helmets. Par for the course: the UN wouldn’t be a sword against the jihadis, they’d be a shield.

Eight Lebanese army soldiers were accidentally killed in an IAF airstrike in the northernmost part of Lebanon earlier today. JPost says it’s unclear why Israel would be bombing targets so close to Syria — but Debka has a theory. And as usual, it’s so fantastic as to beggar belief:

Hizballah leader Hassan Nassrallah and top command are holed up in Hermel, the northern Lebanese panhandle bordering Syria.

Among them, according to DEBKAfile’s military and Iranian sources, are Hizballah’s “chief of staff” Ibrahim Akil, its head of intelligence and terror Imad Mughniyeh and commander of special operations Halil Harab…

After failing to prevent the top Hizballah leaders’ escape from Beirut, the Israeli air force headed north Monday morning, July 17, and is clobbering the Hermel region.

Taking out Nasrallah and Mughniyeh with one shot would be a bonanza on the order of taking out Bin Laden, which is why they’re not travelling together, I’m sure, and why, if they were, they wouldn’t be hanging out on the Lebanese side of the Syrian border. But it’s good to know that in case the opportunity does present itself, the U.S. says the IAF should go for it.

If Lebanon can’t or won’t solve this problem by dealing with Hezbollah, why are so many right-wing bloggers so keen on this operation? Knee-jerk support for Israel? Schadenfreude at the thought of Nasrallah and company running like rats? Congenital Rethuglikkkan bellicosity kicking in? Nah. It’s Iran, stupid. The Daily Telegraph puts it well in today’s lead editorial:

As long as the mullahs go unchecked, neither Israel, nor Palestine, nor Lebanon [nor Iraq, nor Europe, etc. — ed.] will be secure.

This is the challenge facing the concert of powers gathered at the G8 summit in St Petersburg. The ayatollahs have made clear that they do not recognise international law. Indeed, the first act of the revolutionary regime after 1978 – its violation of the diplomatic sanctity of the US embassy – was designed to signal its contempt for territorial jurisdiction.

Iran is not only a threat to Israel. It has been linked to terrorist offences as far afield as London and Buenos Aires, and is backing Islamist militants on President Putin’s doorstep in Central Asia.

All civilised countries, France and Russia included, should unite in halting the ambitions of this aggressive regime, which is perhaps three or four years away from developing a nuclear bomb. That they should place their petty jealousies before a common threat of such magnitude is shameful.

Even Islamic regimes committed to Israel’s destruction are hedging on this one because of ther fear of the gathering Iranian storm. The IDF has the motive, opportunity, and capacity to bludgeon Hezbollah and take a serious chunk out of Iranian prestige; this might be the last chance to roll the bastards back before we reach the point of nuclear no return. There are already signs that it’s working: Iran finally accepted the Europeans’ invitation to nuclear talks yesterday (although this was surely also a factor), and today their foreign minister says a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hezbollah followed by a ceasefire would be a fair resolution to the crisis. The rhetoric is what it is, but the more pressure that can be applied to the regime and the more hurt that can be put on their terrorist wing, the more options we have if/when the nuke-program standoff finally comes. A humiliation at Israel’s hands would also weaken them domestically — not enough to knock them over, probably, but maybe enough to sober them up a bit about their little foreign adventures.

Hope springs eternal. I leave you with this quote from the New York Times, proving that it knows a legitimately elected democratic leader when it sees one:

“We have a new day in the Middle East, and it is a day in which the people of the Middle East, the people of Lebanon without Syrian forces there, the people of the Palestinian territories with a democratic leader in Mahmoud Abbas, are seeking to find a democratic future,” Ms. Rice said. “We’re standing with all responsible parties in the region and with moderate parties in the region who want a Middle East that is different than the 30-plus years of — really, 60-plus years — of Middle East history.”

She did not dwell on the fact that elections also brought to power Hamas in the Palestinian territories and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.

(I don’t have to explain why that statement is jaw-droppingly wrong, do I?)

Update: No sooner am I done making the case for smashing Hezbollah than Drudge breaks news that Olmert is willing to withdraw if they return the Israeli soldiers and withdraw from southern Lebanon. It’s probably a bluff: Nasrallah won’t give up his stronghold that easily and Olmert known it. But still, what happened to yesterday’s “demand” that the group completely disarm per 1559? This stops well short of that. Depressing.

Speaking of 1559, the Counterterrorism Blog has a copy of the Senate’s draft resolution on the conflict.

Update: JPost rounds up Lebanese blog reaction to the conflict.

Update: Not sure how to read this: Ahmadinejad has promised to “aid” Syria if Israel attacks.

Update: Just across on Drudge: an Israeli airstrike hit a truck in Lebanon carrying a long-range Iranian-made missile capable of hitting Tel Aviv. The article doesn’t name what model it was, but based on Stratfor’s description yesterday, it sounds like it might be a Zelzal-2.

Update: There’s never a bad time for irresponsible rumor-mongering, so here you go. Almost certainly false.

Update: Yeah, it was a Zelzal. Haaretz quotes IDF officials, though, as saying it wasn’t an airstrike that took it out. It was a malfunction … that occurred after Hezbollah attempted to fire it. At Tel Aviv?

Update: Sounds like the invasion won’t be long now: three reserve brigades have been called up and sent to the West Bank to relieve troops who are being redeployed to the north, where Hezbollah is still trying to infiltrate.

As expected, Hezbollah has rejected Israel’s ceasefire demands. Meanwhile, a tale of two headlines:

CSM: Hizbullah winning over Arab street

JPost: Arab world fed up with Hizbullah