Hezbollah's Fight Impresses Supporters

Hezbollah can claim at least one victory in its fight with Israel -- a growing reputation in the Arab world as one of the few forces to successfully stand up to the powerful Israeli army.

Hezbollah's Fight Impresses Supporters

"What they've achieved is very symbolic and of a gigantic value," said Abbas Baydoun, a columnist for Beirut's leftist As Safir newspaper. "It may not be a military victory, but its value is more important than that." Hezbollah's task could get tougher, though, if Israel launches a major ground offensive. Israel poured up to 10,000 armored troops into south Lebanon on Tuesday, including an operation in Baalbek, where they fought with militants at a Hezbollah-run hospital.

Even if Hezbollah suffers losses, though, winning or losing a war that's fought between a nation state and a guerrilla group requires an entirely different kind of assessment than a conventional war, said retired Gen. Elias Hanna of the Lebanese army. "Hezbollah wins if it doesn't lose. And Israel loses if it doesn't win," he added. "What's more important to the non-state actor is survival than to achieve victory." Hezbollah's ability to survive so far has brought it many admirers.

Shiite Hezbollah derives much of its support from both Syrian and Iranian backers and Lebanese Shiites in southern Lebanon. It initially drew criticism in Lebanon for sparking the conflict July 12 when it kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. But after Israel launched what many people in the region see as a disproportionate response -- more than 500 Lebanese have been killed so far -- many people here who opposed Hezbollah, and who still oppose its fundamentalist ideology, now support it in the war.

"At the start of the war, Hezbollah felt uneasy -- many were against our capture of the Israeli soldiers," said Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah deputy in the Lebanese parliament. "Now the Israeli war is an open war on all of Lebanon. Militarily, Israel has not been able to achieve anything. On the contrary, it loses when its soldiers enter Lebanese soil." Israel's stated goal at the beginning of the fighting was to decimate Hezbollah and force it to move back from the Israel-Lebanon border and return the two soldiers. Since then, talk by the United States and others has focused on the deployment of an international force in south Lebanon to protect Israel from attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert insisted Tuesday that no cease fire was likely soon. And the Israeli cabinet approved a broader ground offensive into southern Lebanon to secure the area until a multinational force can deploy there. Many here say Israel has not yet gained the upper hand in the fighting. It has been unable to kill Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who many Arabs are now comparing to former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. At a recent anti-Israel rally in Cairo, many demonstrators carried pictures of both Nasrallah and Nasser, known for his vigorous promotion of Arab nationalism.

In addition, Hezbollah met an Israeli ground offensive with fierce resistance last week, and Israel announced a "tactical withdrawal" from the area of Bint Jbail and Maroun al-Ras. Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, head of Israel's northern command, said Israel never intended to occupy Bint Jbail or to get "stuck in one place." He insisted the real mission -- "to destroy infrastructure and kill terrorists" -- had been a success. Nasrallah emerged from the fight saying his guerrillas had dealt Israel a "serious defeat" in the town. But the guerrillas' losses remained unclear.

"They thought when they came in with tanks, the fighters would run away," said Ibrahim Amin, a columnist for Al-Akhbar, a daily that is close to Hezbollah. "This didn't happen." However, Hanna, the Lebanese general, said the Israeli ground forays into south Lebanon's border towns -- known as the triangle of Bint Jbail, Maroun Ras and Taibeh -- may have in fact been a calculated strategy.

"The operation there was like probing ... trying to create a certain pattern ...to see how the (Hezbollah) network is established. It will be easier to destroy it later," said Hanna. He said that as Israel launches its broad offensive, Hezbollah may first resist. But if it is forced to retreat to the Litani River -- about 18 miles north of the Israel-Lebanon border -- it will regroup over time and wage a "mobile insurgency" against Israel, as it did before 2000.

Source: The Boston Globe

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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