AP headline: Israel Massing Military on Lebanon Border
Israel massed tanks and troops on the border, called up reserves and warned civilians to flee Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon as it prepared Friday for a likely ground invasion to set up a deep buffer zone.
Israeli forces would conduct ground operations as needed in Lebanon, but they would be “limited,” Israeli army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz said. He also said nearly 100 Hezbollah guerrillas have been killed in the offensive in Lebanon.
So how big is this “mass” of troops that will conduct “limited” operations in southern Lebanon? According to FNC’s Jennifer Griffin, whom I just saw reporting from the border a few minutes ago, about 1,000 troops including about 30 tanks. To put that into some perspective, Israel has about 125,000 troops on active duty and another 600,000 in reserves, and over 600 tanks. Whatever you want to call the force that’s about to go into Lebanon (and probably come right back out once it has achieved some limited objective), it’s not a “mass.” It’s a unit or a brigade.
So why pick on this nit? Because the media has been fairly relentless in casting Israel’s response to Hezbollah’s rockets as “disproportionate,” and this characterization of Israel’s short-term future actions as “massive” appears to be more of the same. Israel isn’t yet likely to send in a truly massive ground force. What it will do is send in small units, take towns and villages, punch out the Hez nests they find, and move back out either to Israel or to the next town. Short term, this won’t be a take and hold action. It’s more likely to be search and destroy. The IDF will look for rocket caches, and finding them, destroy them–along with any Hezbollah terrorists nearby. Given the objective, which is to reduce that 13,000+ rocket stockpile as quickly as possible while reducing Hezbollah’s effectiveness as much as possible, a mass army invasion isn’t yet the way to go.
It would be nice if the bulk of the media took the time to understand the battlefield before trying to intepret it to the rest of the world.