Don't Mistake Restraint for Weakness, Israel Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Jerusalem (] - It was quiet but tense in northern Israel and Lebanon on Tuesday morning after nearly a week of fighting. But Israelis in northern Israel were sticking close to bomb shelters and security rooms, just in case. Indeed, several rockets landed in Haifa at mid-morning.

Hizballah has launched more than 700 rockets at northern Israeli communities, including Israel's third largest city, Haifa, where eight Israelis were killed on Sunday. A total of twelve Israeli civilians and twelve soldiers have been killed since Hizballah fired its opening salvo last Wednesday, with the kidnap and killing of Israeli soldiers.

Some 220 Lebanese also have been killed, reports said. According to Israeli Army chief Dan Halutz, the Shiite quarter of Beirut does not exist any more, and Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has been bunkered underground since the Israeli counter-attacks began.

Israeli Air Force jets continued to pound Lebanon overnight, targeting sites -- some apparently amid the civilian population -- that are connected with Hizballah, including weapons storage facilities, rocket launching areas and trucks for the transfer of weaponry, the army said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday evening that Israel would not be held hostage to terrorism anymore.

"Israel will not be held hostage -- not by terror gangs or by a terrorist authority or by any sovereign state," Olmert said in a televised address to the Knesset.

Israel's enemies have challenged its sovereignty during the past few weeks. "Our enemies misinterpreted our willingness to exercise restraint as a sign of weakness. They were wrong!" Olmert said.

Olmert accused Iran and Syria of meddling in the affairs of Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority and said that Israel would not let up on its offensive until Lebanon agreed to return its two abducted soldiers, stop firing rockets, deploy the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon and disarm and expel Hizballah from Lebanon.

It is not clear how many rockets Hizballah still has left in its arsenal, a weapons expert said here.

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said the Israeli army operations would continue for at least another week until Hizballah is severely beaten.

All the rockets that Hizballah is firing at Israel right now are Iranian-made, said expert Yitach Shapir from the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv.

Hizballah claims to have a variety of rockets -- the Grad, Fajr-3, Fajr-5 and Zelzal -- with varying ranges of up to 200 kilometers, said Shapir.

"I don't think even Mr. Nasrallah knows [how many rockets] he has left," said Shapir. The rocket caches are stored in various places, including in people's homes. A hundred rockets could be easily hidden in a basement, he said.

The only way to really clean them out would be to mount an Israeli ground operation, Shapir said. "Until now, [Israel] has been reluctant to go in...Nobody has an appetite [to spend] another 20 years in the Lebanese swamp," he said, referring to the more than 18 years that Israel spent maintaining a security zone in southern Lebanon.

Israeli Army chief Halutz told Israeli lawmakers in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that Israel has not launched a major ground offensive yet -- and that it needs to keep the pressure on Hizballah for as long as possible.

An Israeli air strike on a Hizballah truck in Lebanon destroyed Iranian missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv on Monday. When the truck was hit, one of the missiles apparently fired into the air and exploded. The incident was captured on Lebanese television, which mistakenly reported that Hizballah had succeeded in downing an Israeli warplane.

Brig-General Ram Shmueli said that the air force had targeted a truck carrying at least 10 Iranian-made Zelzal missiles, which have a range of up to 160 kilometers, capable of reaching Israel's main financial center Tel Aviv.

Overnight, Israel thwarted two attempts by armed gunmen to infiltrate into Israel and carry out an attack along the northern border, the army said.

Further south, two Kassam rockets were launched at southern Israel early Tuesday, lightly injuring a Thai worker in a hothouse in the border community of Netiv Ha'asara.

On Monday, 12 Kassams were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip.

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