'IDF has a lot left to achieve'

Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz: Hizbullah has suffered hundreds of fatalities; Bint Jbail is the symbolic heart of the struggle.

benny gantz 88 (photo credit: IDF)
benny gantz 88
(photo credit: IDF)
The IDF has "a long way to go" and "a lot left to achieve" in the battle against Hizbullah, Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz, the head of the IDF's Ground Forces Command, said on Wednesday. He said the army might yet have to use more force, but he hoped for the sake of Lebanon that it would not have to resort to a full-scale invasion. He characterized the current IDF offensive as "a flexible maneuver on the ground. We've used [only] several percent of our forces. An invasion is something else." Gantz, the former head of the Northern Command who said he was "the last soldier to leave Lebanon" when Israel pulled out of the security zone six years ago, was briefing a small group of reporters as the fighting raged in Bint Jbail. He said Hizbullah had suffered "hundreds of fatalities" in the two weeks of fighting, and that it had "dozens of casualties" trapped in its "terror capital," Bint Jbail. The village was the "symbolic heart" of the current struggle, he said, but "there may be other places with more weapons and more fighters." Asked whether Hizbullah was proving a tougher enemy than had been expected, Gantz said it was a "well-trained guerrilla-terrorist group... but we are better trained. We knew it was not going to be easy. But we are winning... We will succeed." He added that "if Hizbullah is honest, it is telling itself, 'This is much tougher than we expected.'" He affirmed the assessment that Hizbullah had been degraded by 50 percent - "maybe even worse." The general said it would be "days or weeks" before northern Israel would be free of the Hizbullah threat, but was adamant that this goal would be achieved and that Hizbullah would be disarmed. "We cannot allow ourselves to have this terrorist organization," he said. Gantz added that the rest of the world, too, should recognize how crucial it was to remove this base of Iranian terror from the area, and that the Lebanese should recognize the damage Hizbullah had done to their country. Israel had "respected" Lebanon's sovereignty for the six years since it pulled back to the border, he said. In that time, Hizbullah built itself a terror base, under Iranian and Syrian protection, and Lebanon "did nothing" to prevent this. "Now the price is being paid." The battle across the border was so complex, he said, because Hizbullah had built "shelters, tunnels, hidden places" and acquired a "ridiculous" array of weaponry. "But we are finding them and destroying them. We suffer casualties, but we are moving forward and we will reach our goals."