Rocket Launched From Qana Kills Israelis in Haifa

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

Jerusalem ( - Israeli jets targeted routes that Hizballah may be using to smuggle weapons from northern to southern Lebanon overnight. The fresh bombardment follows the deadliest day yet for Israel in the current war to crush the terrorists who want to eradicate Israel.

Twelve Israeli reservists were killed on Sunday morning when a Katyusha rocket hit an armored personnel carrier packed with ammunition as the reservists gathered at the border with Lebanon.

On Sunday evening, a Syrian-made rocket scored a direct hit on a Haifa apartment building, killing three people and wounding many more.

Amid the continuing, deadly rocket fire, many people are wondering why Israel -- with its air and military superiority -- cannot stop the rocket launchers.

Military experts note that the rockets are being fired from areas that are not yet under Israeli control, but some say that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is preventing the army from cleaning out the area near the Litani River, from which the rockets are being fired.

Some analysts have said that Olmert is skittish about sending too many ground troops into Lebanon, afraid that they will get mired down there as Israel did for 18 years when it maintained a buffer zone in southern Lebanon against terrorist threats.

But Professor Gerald Steinberg, director of the Conflict Management Department at Bar-Ilan, said part of the problem is the reporting on the conflict.

"Journalist reports are problematic," Steinberg said. What Israel is not doing is sending its soldiers into mine fields and tank traps that would be costly battles, he added.

The army reported that it had destroyed the rocket launcher used with such deadly effect in Haifa on Sunday -- and that the rocket had been launched from Qana.

Last week, Israel came under intense criticism for bombing a building in Qana, killing 28 people, most of them children, who had taken shelter inside. Israel said at the time it was trying to stop rocket fire from the village.

Initial reports said Israel had killed as many as 57 civilians in Qana, but various aid groups have lowered the death toll.

Tougher than expected

The war Israel is waging against Hizballah is a "new kind of war" and it is "more difficult than anybody expected, said Dan Schueftan, a national security analyst at the University of Haifa.

Hizballah is using a weapon that can be operated by practically anybody, even by remote control by cellular telephone or timer, said Schueftan. The rocket launchers are small and are located in civilian areas.

Hizballah reportedly possessed 10,000 to13,000 rockets at the beginning of the war.

The Israeli Air Force has carried out some 8,700 sorties, hitting 4,600 targets including rocket launchers and weapons storage facilities, but despite the massive firepower it has not stopped the rocket fire.

By noon on Monday some 50 rockets had landed in Israel. Since Hizballah staged a cross-border attack killing eight Israeli soldiers and abducting two others 27 days ago, at least 3,000 rockets have crashed into Israel.

Steinberg said that Hizballah possesses hundreds if not a thousand rocket launchers.

The launchers have to be destroyed "one at a time," said Steinberg. One militant with a launcher in the back of his truck can launch dozens of rockets at Israel, he added.

Iranian, Syrian backing

Another difficulty in this war is the fact that Israel is up against a guerrilla organization backed by a local power Iran, which is waging a proxy war against Israel, said Schueftan.

Even though the fighting has devastated the host country, Hizballah doesn't care, said Schueftan. Iran has given thousands of rockets to Hizballah and the Syrians and Iranians are believed to be trying to re-supply Hizballah.

Schueftan said ultimately, this is a battle against the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran.

He said Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah did not anticipate the harsh Israeli reaction to Hizballah's cross-border attack in July. It is better that Israel is fighting this battle now rather than in a year when Hizballah might have had an Iranian nuclear umbrella for its actions, he said.

Reporting questioned

Steinberg said that one of the reasons that Hizballah looks like it is winning is at least partly due to the way the situation is being reported.

"Most people don't know about the situation," said Steinberg, who said he has seen television reporters standing in front of one town, talking about a battle they know nothing about.

Israeli is killing or capturing Hizballah fighters at a ratio of about 10 to every one Israeli soldier killed in battle, he said. It may take a few more months, but when the fighting is over "Hizballah is not going to be on the playing field," Steinberg said.

Hizballah was a cancer that was growing for a long time, said Steinberg, and the United Nations and Europe "turned a blind eye."

Steinberg insisted that there are many things going on in the field that Israel is not revealing to the press. One example was a commando operation in a Hizballah hospital in Baalbek last week that was reported by chance by al-Jazeera. The army admitted after the report that there had been a number of commando operations going on all along, he said.

Another military expert, retired Air Force Colonel Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto, said last week that the military operation was going along according to plan.

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