- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The ongoing exchange of armaments between Israel and Hezbollah is a mismatch in terms of firepower. Israeli pilots are using precision satellite guidance to unleash 500-pound munitions, while the Lebanese terrorist group relies on less accurate rockets, most with smaller warheads.

Israel dominates the airspace over Lebanon, and uses satellite and spy drone imagery to locate targets. Hezbollah is without an air force and owns only a few drones. Hezbollah rocketeers simply calibrate the distance to Israeli cities and then launch in hopes of hitting a populated neighborhood.

Lebanon yesterday pegged the death toll from Israeli air strikes at 310; Israel says 28 of its citizens have been killed by rocket attacks. It says it has destroyed 50 percent of the enemy’s military structure.

Robert Maginnis, a former Army artillery officer, said Hezbollah’s rockets, if launched successfully, usually can hit a target within a one-mile diameter.

“They aren’t accurate enough to hit a building, but you fire them at a small town or village and they are probably going to hit something inside that small town or village. They could go after a police station or hospital, and they might hit one or the other.”

Hezbollah is estimated to have a rocket force of more than 13,000, from which it periodically has fired on northern Israeli towns during the past 20 years. This time, the attacks come in waves, with nearly 1,000 launched since July 12.

Hezbollah’s arsenal features a hodgepodge of old and newer surface-to-surface rockets, most made in Iran and Syria, with ranges from 10 miles to as far as 200 miles. They include the family of Soviet-designed Katyushas; the Fajr-3 and -5 based on the Katyusha; the Zelzal-2, which can carry up to 300 pounds of explosives and travel more than 100 miles; and the Shahin, which can fly various distances.

They launch them from vehicles, and this shoot-and-run tactic makes it more difficult to track the launch site with counter-battery radars.

“The rocket damage is more psychological,” Mr. Maginnis said. “You’ve seen the damage that has been done. Occasionally, they hit a building. They have killed some people. They want to instill fear.”

Mr. Maginnis doubts Israel can destroy Hezbollah’s military from the air. He recalled the examination of the Kosovo battlefield after the U.S.-led air war against Serbian army troops. It showed that NATO’s claims of knocking out hundreds of weapons were not substantiated.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah can hide its rocket, mortar and small-arms arsenal in residential areas that are not on the Israeli air force target list.

“Unless you have troops on the ground, Hezbollah is just going to pop up their ugly heads and go back to where they were a year ago,” he said. “You just can’t hit all these places.”

Israel has said it has no plans to invade southern Lebanon.

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