Halutz: No need to send ground troops

Says 100 IAF jets will continue assault until threat is demolished.

halutz fists 298 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
halutz fists 298 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel has leveled land stretching up to one kilometer into Lebanon, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said Monday while refuting claims that IDF ground troops had operated within Lebanese territories. "We have cleared the land to prevent Hizbullah operatives from setting up future bases of operation there," Halutz told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday. "But in this day and age, with all the technology we have, there is no reason to start sending ground troops in." According to Halutz, the IDF had been successful in its operations until now, but would require patience from the public as it continued what was likely to be a "long and careful" operation. Halutz added that Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah had been in hiding in a bunker outside Beirut since Israel began its offensive. "He and his aides have not seen the light of day since the start of Israel Air Force strikes," he said. Halutz said that the IDF had some 100 air force jets operating above Lebanon, and would continue its assault on Lebanon until the threat had been demolished. "We have no intention of operating against Syria at this time," Halutz said. "Hizbullah has been trying to pull Syria into the conflict." The chief of staff added, "It will take time to determine the effectiveness of the IDF operation in Lebanon. We do know, however, that we crippled Hizbullah's major transportation points and prevented them from transferring more weapons to their artillery units. We also know that we cleared out Hizbullah's major support networks." Halutz said that in addition to its attacks on Hizbullah strongholds, the IAF was destroying monuments that Hizbullah had erected in southern Lebanon. Over the weekend, he said, Israeli jets leveled a museum dedicated to the "expulsion of the Jews from Lebanon." Halutz also addressed a speech made by Nasrallah promising "surprises" for Israeli forces. Halutz said that the surprises could pertain to sophisticated weaponry, long-range missiles, or anti-aircraft weaponry. Earlier on Monday, rumors spread that Hizbullah had shot down an IAF plane. Halutz refuted those rumors but did concede that Hizbullah might have the capability to do so in the future. "In truth, we don't know what their full arsenal is," said Halutz. "But they are probably still storing some surprises." A Military Intelligence official who also addressed the committee said that the Palestinians had smuggled suicide bombers through the Philadelphi Route on the Gaza-Egypt border in order to send them into Israel to carry out attacks.