IAF jet 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
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Deputy IDF Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinski said on Tuesday that the offensive against Hizbullah would reach its completion "in a matter of weeks."
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Amir Peretz approved the summoning of an additional three battalions for reserve duty.
The reservists are set to replace troops currently operating in the West Bank, allowing those soldiers to be deployed in the north, to assist in the conflict with Hizbullah. The orders were expected to be distributed on Tuesday.
Nevertheless, Kaplinsky said a massive ground incursion was not necessary at the moment.
"At this stage we do not think we have to activate massive ground forces into Lebanon but if we have to do this, we will. We are not ruling it out," Kaplinski told Israel Radio.
The deputy chief of staff added that Hizbullah had a very large system of different types of rockets. "The (group) still has the ability to fire at the north and residents still feel this. We will do everything to shorten this suffering," he said.
On Monday night, the IDF continued its assault on Lebanon, attacking some 100 targets throughout the country, including five rocket launching sites. The IAF bombed bunkers in the neighborhood of Dahiya in southern Beirut. Also, a weapons cache and trucks used to carry arms were also hit near Ba'al Bek in eastern Lebanon.
In one attack in southern Lebanon, a building collapsed and 13 people were killed, witnesses reported. The bombing of the southern region continued into Tuesday morning.
Also on Monday night, the IDF thwarted an infiltration attempt when the forces identified a Hizbullah cell attempting to enter Israel along the central region of the border. The soldiers opened fire at the infiltrators, striking the target.
The IDF stepped up its offensive against Hizbullah on Monday and, in pinpointed ground incursions, razed the group's military outposts along the northern border as IAF fighter jets bombed stockpiles of long-range missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv.
Thirty-five people were wounded in Hizbullah rocket attacks throughout the north on Monday. In the worst of the assaults, 11 were wounded, one seriously, when a building was struck by a Katyusha rocket in Haifa. On Monday night an unspecified strategic site was also hit, causing power outages across the region.
The air force bombed a launcher holding an Iranian Zelzal missile
, which has a range of up to 160 kilometers and is capable of hitting Tel Aviv, destroying the missile before it could be fired.
In total, more than 130 rocket launch sites were bombed by the IAF in addition to Hizbullah cells, radar stations and bridges throughout the country.
Kaplinsky said Monday night that Operation Changing Direction was having the right effect on Hizbullah and that on Monday the group fired fewer rockets than the day before. Kaplinsky said that Israel was not surprised to find Zelzal missiles in the Hizbullah's arsenal.
"We acted before they were used against us," he said adding that Hizbullah was surprised by Israel's ability to obtain real-time intelligence on the terror group.
"We are looking to change the reality in northern Israel," he said at a press briefing in Tel Aviv Monday night. "We are hitting them and will continue to hit them until they are significantly weakened."
But despite the discovery of the Zelzal missiles, the Home Front Command on Monday decided not to order residents of Tel Aviv or the Gush Dan region to enter bomb shelters or security rooms. "All residents should do in the Gush Dan region is stay close to buildings and listen for sirens which would go off if missiles are on their way," said Col. Yehiel Kuperstein, a senior Home Front Command officer.
Israel will destroy Lebanese power plants if Hizbullah fires long-range missiles at strategic installations in northern Israel, a high-ranking IDF officer threatened on Monday.
"If their missiles hit petrochemical plants in Haifa we will consider bombing power plants in Lebanon," the senior officer warned, adding that Israel had already succeeded in impairing Hizbullah's ability to carry out attacks against Israel.
One of the main focal points of IDF operations in Lebanon, he said, was to prevent the transfer of new weapons and missiles to Hizbullah from Syria. To achieve that goal, the IDF has bombed the Beirut-Damascus road as well as other bridges throughout the country.
Despite the use of Syrian and Iranian missiles, the IDF, the officer said, was not interested in opening new fronts against the two countries. He said that Hizbullah was firing rockets purposely at the Golan Heights to try and draw Syria into the current fighting.
For now, he said, the IDF would not launch a massive ground incursion into southern Lebanon to push back Katyusha rocket launchers and would suffice with the current air campaign.
The IAF also continued on Monday to bomb Hizbullah's main headquarters in the southern Beirut neighborhood of Dahiya where the group's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, is believed to be. F-16s dropped dozens of bombs on the underground bunker but the IDF would not say whether Nasrallah had been hit.
Kaplinsky said he did not believe diplomatic pressure would force Israel to stop the military action against Hizbullah before its scheduled ending. "We need more time to deal a significant blow to Hizbullah," he said. "I believe we will get that time."
Earlier, it was released for publication that IDF troops had conquered the Lebanese side of Ghajar, a town split down the middle by the border. The IDF confirmed that it was operating inside the town but said that the operation was meant to create a barrier on the Lebanese side to prevent Hizbullah infiltrations into Israel.
On Monday morning, IAF aircraft fired missiles at targets in all corners of Lebanon, killing 20 and wounding at least 53 after Hizbullah rockets slammed into new targets deep inside Israel. The IAF hit over 60 targets in Lebanon on Sunday night and into Monday morning, the army said. Targets included radar stations near the Tripoli port reportedly being used by Hizbullah to track Israeli aircraft.
Eight of the dead were Lebanese soldiers who were killed when aircraft attacked a small fishing port at Abdeh in northernmost Lebanon next to a highway leading to northern Syria, about six kilometers from the border. Witnesses and security officials said 12 others were wounded after the early Monday attack destroyed the position. The IDF said it was investigating the incidents.
"In principle the Israeli military does not target Lebanese soldiers," a spokesman said.
Lebanon's army has largely remained on the sidelines of the conflict between Hizbullah and Israel so far, and it was unclear why one of its positions at the far north of the country had been hit.
The road to Syria's northwest was temporarily closed to traffic as rescuers evacuated casualties and cleared the rubble.
Fighter jets also struck the Beirut international airport early Monday, targeting a fuel storage tank that sent an orange flame billowing high into the night sky.
The facility has been closed since Thursday after Israeli missiles punched holes in its runways and set ablaze fuel storage tanks.
Gunboats apparently aiming at a relay station for Hizbullah's Al-Manar television missed their target and hit a house in the Kharroub region south of Beirut. Police said four villagers were killed and 10 wounded.
Warplanes staged successive air strikes, targeting neighborhoods in the eastern city of Baalbek where Hizbullah officials have residences. Police had no casualty count. Residents reported that the bombardment, up to 12 missiles in six air raids, was the heaviest on the city, which is famous for its Roman ruins. The missiles started several fires and kicked up black smoke.