Analysis: Bad week for Hizbullah

Senior IDF officials: After attacks in north, "Hizbullah is in distress."

nasrallah298 (photo credit: AP)
(photo credit: AP)
It was condemned by the United Nations, dozens of its fighters were killed or wounded in a botched assault on Galilee, a chance to nab an Israeli hostage slipped through its fingers and a local spy was captured. All in all it was a bad week for Hizbullah. So bad, that the IDF remains on alert for another attack. "Hizbullah is in distress," was the mantra repeated this week by senior IDF officials and Lebanon watchers. If Hizbullah wanted to divert the spotlight from Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime over involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, it only ended up putting Lebanon's plight more in the news. If it hoped to be able to score beauty points at home on Lebanon's national day by presenting itself as national protector against the Zionist aggressors, it only succeeded in exposing itself as a fraud. And it suffered one of its most significant military defeats in its history of daring clashes with the IDF. Military sources said that Hizbullah had been planning Monday's assault for months with the aim of a highly visible victory - either killing many Israeli soldiers or more likely kidnapping them and parading them in Beirut. For this purpose it brought in its elite fighters, equipped with motorbikes and all-terrain vehicles, and struck at 20 IDF outposts nearly simultaneously with scores of mortar shells and anti-tank rounds. The result? A few wounded Israeli soldiers. The butcher's bill? Seven Hizbullah fighters dead and dozens wounded, and it is begging for the return of the bodies of three gunmen Israel is holding. It abandoned all of its border outposts in southern Lebanon, and the IDF, taking advantage of the opportunity, destroyed 13 of them, including its brigade-level headquarters, military sources said. "We know they were in distress because their initial statements were so outlandish, downright lies," said a senior officer. Sheikh Nabil Kauq, head of Hizbullah in south Lebanon, boasted on TV that his fighters had destroyed Israeli tanks and armored vehicles and inflicted heavy casualties. "Crack Israeli troops were slaughtered," he said. Their biggest lie was their claim Israel had started it by entering Lebanon first. What was Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah thinking he could gain by launching this attack? "They wanted to show there was still Israeli aggression that requires defense on the border and that they were the defenders of the border. They wanted to quash talk of disarming them," said Lt.-Col. (res.) Moshe Marzuk, a former head of the Lebanon desk in IDF intelligence. "But it boomeranged. Not only did the UN Security Council condemn them for starting the attack, but so did Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora," said Marzuk, today a researcher at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism. Caught so brazenly in its own lies, Hizbullah started to do damage control to its credibility and for the first time retracted an earlier statement that Israeli warplanes had struck again in Lebanon. It said an explosion had been caused instead by a previously unexploded artillery shell. Military sources note there is increasing support in Lebanon to take on Hizbullah's armed militia. They noted that Saniora has asked the Europeans to help him strengthen his army to face Hizbullah. "This week has weakened Hizbullah. It demonstrated them as liars to the Lebanese people and troublemakers to the world," Marzuk said. But he predicted that in the short run, Hizbullah was likely determined to keep the fire burning with Israel to justify its arms. "The moment they are disarmed, they will be severely weakened," Marzuk said.