(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The international force Israel is seeking in southern Lebanon needs to be comprised of some 15,000 troops, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told British newspapers on Wednesday.
"It has to be made up of armies, not of retirees, of real soldiers, not of pensioners who have come to spend leisurely months in south Lebanon, but, rather, an army with combat units that is prepared to implement the UN resolution. I think it has to have about 15,000 soldiers. I think that's more or less what the international community understands," Olmert told the Times and the Telegraph.
When asked how much time is left, Olmert replied, "I don't think it will take weeks. I think that a resolution will be made sometime next week by the UN Security Council and then it depends on the rapidity of deployment of the international forces into the south of Lebanon. Obviously, as I said, we will not pull out and we will not stop shooting until there is an international force that will effectively control the area."
"I think Hizbullah has been disarmed by the military operation of Israel to a large degree," he said. "The infrastructure of the group has been entirely destroyed. More than 700 of its command positions were entirely wiped out by the Israeli army."
Olmert stressed that "Israel will never, ever allow anyone any more to attack Israel without response." Asked whether the offensive is going to crush Hizbullah, the prime minister said, "I have never talked in those terms. I am not a Nasrallah. I am not talking in this arrogant and pompous manner."
"I think already there has been a lot of damage inflicted on them and I think they feel it. By the way, if Nasrallah is so courageous why doesn't he resurface? Why is he afraid even to feel the light of the sun. No one knows where he is. I am in my office and I have been to the northern part of Israel many times in the last few weeks and I am not hiding. Where exactly is Nasrallah, this big mouth? It shows how cowardly he is and how afraid he is to even surface."
Olmert described the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian leader, as "reckless" and "immature", adding: "I don't see that Syria is ready or is even prepared to avail itself to any act of moderation."