Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Is Bint Jubayl the Only Battle?

Condoleezza Rice has come and gone, due back in the region later this week. In the meantime, the warfare on the northern front continues primarily as an air campaign, but with a visible ground element in a single concentrated area.

If published reports are to be believed, it has taken the IDF a week to overrun Marun ar-Ras and surround the Hizbollah fighters of Bint Jubayl and its satellite villages, a single penetration of about 2.5 miles into Hizbollah territory inside Lebanon. It has been for the Israeli army a (purposely?/frustratingly?) slow and costly battle, and sometimes the fighting was hand-to-hand. If Bint Jubayl was one of the primary launching grounds of Hizbollah, it is certainly not the only one, as today's salvo of over 90 Katyushas prove. One sometimes reliable, sometimes crazy, web site claims that there are 11 other Bint Jubayl-level centers of Hizbollah concentration along the Lebanon-Israeli border, though I assume that a good number of these run along the border with the disputed Golan Heights. It is hard to imagine that this single kill zone between Avivim and Bint Jubayl will be the only battleground.

The IDF is not engaging in a mad dash to the Litani River. Instead it is working on a single Hizbollah pocket, probably because it has not been instructed to re-create a sterile buffer zone, but possibly because it wants to learn and study from this battle as to what exactly Hizbollah forces are capable of. Will the battle of Bint Jubayl be recorded as the first of many such ground actions, or will it be the single battle of the ground war in 2006? It is hard for me to imagine that the IDF (and the tough-talking Israeli government) will be satisfied for all its effort with this single hard-won victory. Thus, as the battle of Bint Jubayl ends, expect the ground war to widen.

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