Last night, as the self-imposed hiatus on Israeli air force major air operations in Lebanon expired, Israel Defense Force (IDF) special operations soldiers launched a raid in the city of Ba’labakk, 80 miles inside Lebanon in the northern Biqa’ Valley and less than 10 miles from the Syrian border. The target was the Dar Al-Hikmah hospital where it was believed senior Hizballah leaders were located. Israeli forces, flown in and out by helicopter with fighter aircraft support, all returned safely.
At the same time, the Israeli air force struck targets to continue the isolation of Lebanon from Syria. While this effort has had some success, Israeli officials believe Syria continues to try to resupply Hizballah. Last night’s strikes focused on the Al-Hirmil area – near the main road between the Biqa’ Valley and the Syrian industrial city of Homs 40 miles away. This would be an alternate supply route to the Beirut-Damascus highway that has been the subject of numerous Israeli air strikes.
It appears that the debate inside the IDF has been resolved in favor of expanded ground operations – Israel’s national security cabinet authorized just that yesterday. Today we saw about six combat brigades enter southern Lebanon, attacking along the border area as they begin the move towards the Litani River, about 18 miles north. In the east near Qiryat Shemona, Israeli forces are attacking along the border and moving towards the strategic town of Marj ‘Ayun, sitting at the southern end of the Biqa’ Valley, able to control that potential Hizballah resupply route.
No longer is the IDF mounting raids into Lebanon and withdrawing, as they did earlier at Marun Ar-Ra's and Bint Jubayl. It is moving into southern Lebanon and will occupy it until the international force arrives. Finally.