- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2006

“The towns you have built in northern Palestine are within the range of the brave Lebanese children. No part of Israel will be safe.” This declaration, made yesterday by the speaker of the Iranian parliament at a pro-Hezbollah rally in Tehran (where mobs chanted “Death to Israel”), serves to illustrate why Israel is so determined to bring its military campaign to a successful conclusion — with the destruction of Hezbollah’s ability to target Israel from Lebanon. And it explains why upwards of 80 percent of Israelis applaud Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s decision to launch the offensive.

The Israeli military said yesterday that it has destroyed 40-50 percent of Hezbollah’s abilities and that it would need one more week to eliminate the threat to northern Israel. While outside analysts are less optimistic, there is no question that the strategic equation has shifted substantially against Tehran and Hezbollah and in Israel’s favor over the past week. Aside from the damage to Hezbollah’s headquarters and terrorist bases, Israeli officials were heartened by the disheveled, unkempt appearance of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in a tape-recorded address that aired over the weekend following an Israeli airstrike.

Hezbollah may have seriously miscalculated how Israel would react when the Lebanese terror group entered Israel and kidnapped two soldiers. Israel’s response to the kidnapping of its servicemen was not the limited response to provocations that Hezbollah has been used to for more than 20 years. Instead, Mr. Olmert launched a military campaign: to cripple Hezbollah as a fighting force; to enable the government of Lebanon to exercise its sovereign responsibilities by extending the authority of the Lebanese army to its southern border; to create an enforceable system of disarmament, ensuring that Hezbollah and other armed groups cannot possess rockets and missiles that could target Israel from Lebanon; and to create a mechanism that would prevent Iran and Syria from replacing the substantial quantities of Hezbollah weaponry that Israel is in the process of destroying.

Israel estimates that, at the start of last week’s hostilities, Hezbollah had approximately 13,000 rockets and missiles supplied by Iran and Syria — the overwhelming majority of which were Katyusha rockets, which can travel approximately 15-20 miles. As of yesterday, it had fired approximately 1,500 of these weapons into Israel. In addition, Hezbollah also possesses a few hundred longer-range Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 missiles and the Iranian-built Zelzal missile, which can reach beyond Tel Aviv (the Israeli military destroyed one as it was being towed in Beirut on Monday). Most ominous of all, Hezbollah has another missile, the C802, which Iran has provided for Hezbollah. Israel was unaware of the fact that Hezbollah possessed the weapon until last weekend, when one hit an Israeli ship, killing four seamen.

While Israel is still in the process of designing a plan to secure its northern border, it’s clear that Jerusalem will not permit Hezbollah and its weapons to return to southern Lebanon. It also is obvious that Israel will insist on the development of some kind of mechanism — which could be the Lebanese army or a substantial international force — to prevent terrorists from accumulating the kind of arsenal that Hezbollah, and by extension, Tehran and Damascus, are now using to menace Israeli towns.

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