The Tabouleh Line – 2

"Israeli soldiers have been shaken by the fighters’ skill and commitment, describing them as an army, not a rabble. “Even I have been surprised at the tenacity of these groups fighting in the villages,” Timur Goksel, who served with UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon from 1979 to 2003, said. “They have fought far beyond my expectations and they haven’t even committed all their fully experienced troops yet.” "  London Times


I hear that the Israelis have been engaged so far with "village reserves," and that they have not yet met the standing forces of HA.  This echeloning of categories of forces sounds a lot like the Viet Minh/NVA/VC politico-military set up.  Other revolutionary armies?

This is not guerrilla war.  Forget that.  This is positional warfare waged using field fortifications as the base and pivot so that a heavier force advancing into the "grid" of the defense can be engaged and defeated by attrition.  So far, they are doing quite a job.  A force in the process of evolution is what I would call HA.

Don’t get too worked up about how old the equipment is or who built what.  If it kills, it kills, and the quality of the fortification project speaks for itself.

Ab_fmj189 It is what is inside these men that counts.  As the old "gunny" says in "Full Metal Jacket," "It is the hard heart that kills."

Pat Lang,,251-2306510,00.html,,251-2306725,00.html

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34 Responses to The Tabouleh Line – 2

  1. Mo says:

    The Battle of Marjayoun
    You will have read this morning that last night the Israeli forces entered the village of Marjayoun with very little ressistance – who hasn’t seen a movie where one guy says “its quiet” and the other responds “yeah, too quiet”? Well, obviously Israels high command haven’t. The ambush was apparently so brilliant that a Lebanese Military analyst said today that if the manouver is ever looked at properly, it will become standard text for any military academy textbook. Latest reports (as of writing 12am Beirut Time) say that approx. 100 Israeli soldiers have taken 40 Lebanese civilians hostage and are surrounded in a Lebanese Army barracks. If true, the UN could be about to rescue them big time.
    Israels survival has long depended on the projection of its invincibilty. The irony is that the aftermath of what has become, no matter how you spin it, a humiliation for the IDF, Condi will get her “new Middle East”, only not the one she wanted. What will Nasrallah do with his new found power? And I dont mean in Lebanon, thats really irrelevant now, but in the wider Arab world. If he asks the people of Egypt or Jordan to rise up and remove their dictators will they do so? How cosy will the Saudis want to be to the Lebanese and how much of their relationship withthe West will they have to sacrifice in order to do so? And, the biggest irony of all, the net effect of Irans influence on the region will most likely be diminished. If Israel and the Israelis have the foresight, they won’t soothe their egos by laying into the Palestinians (but I suspect they will) but rather pre-empt their weakened postion in the ME by getting to the negotiating table sooner rather than later.

  2. canuck says:

    I have a question to ask about water in Israel. Here’s what I’ve been reading:
    Water Issues In the Arab-Israeli Conflict
    Hydrology maps of Israel/Palestine (and Golan area
    Comments from a poster: Notice in particular the “sweet water sources” that surround – surprise! – the hotly contested Shebaa Farms area.
    Suggest looking at the location of the natural, fresh water acquifiers of the “high pumping potential” with an overlay of:
    1) jewish settlement activity in the West Bank.
    2) Israel’s security “barrier” (wall ruled illegal by by the israeli supreme court AND the international court of justice)
    It’s about surival. That means water.
    Note bene: I am informed by reliable sources (my brother, who lives in the northern Galilee region currently under daily rocket barrage)that Israel has completely polluted and over-used the nearly negligible water resources it already has: e.g. the Hayarkon River is so polluted as to be a hazard to any living thing that should come into contact with it — including any naturally occurring aquatic life.

  3. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Are you in Beirut? pl

  4. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The “hydraulic” theory of Israeli history holds that to be true.
    I don’t think so. They aren’t all that hard up. This is about power and nationalism. pl

  5. Wombat says:

    If Hezbollah is in fact fighting from static positions, most–if not all of them–South of the Litani, wouldn’t that provide an opportunity for the IDF to land a large, mobile force North of the Litani, advancing inland, and physically cutting Hezbollah off from the rest of Lebanon?
    Why hasn’t the IDF done this, as opposed to frontal assaults with undertrained and under-equipped forces?

  6. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Israel would have a difficult time projecting a large force by sea or air north of the Litani. Then there would be the problem of sustaining the force there.
    Anzio? pl

  7. canuck says:

    Breakthrough in talks over cease-fire resolution; Security Council expected to convene Friday
    Revised draft calls for ‘progressive’ IDF withdrawal from south Lebanon
    By Shlomo Shamir, Aluf Benn and Yair Ettinger,
    Haaretz Correspondents, and Agencies
    The parties involved in diplomatic negotiations for a UN-brokered cease-fire resolution aimed at ending the fighting in Lebanon reached a breakthrough Thursday, paving the way for the stationing of international troops in Lebanon as part of a package which would end the month-long confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah.
    The UN Security Council will convene Friday to discuss the new proposal, which has been agreed to by the United States as well as France.
    The sides are currently putting the finishing touches to the final wording of the resolution. The revised draft calls for a “progressive” Israeli withdrawal, a senior Lebanese political source said on Thursday.
    Details of UN Cease-fire resolution

  8. zanzibar says:

    “Latest reports (as of writing 12am Beirut Time) say that approx. 100 Israeli soldiers have taken 40 Lebanese civilians hostage and are surrounded in a Lebanese Army barracks.” – Mo
    The Haaretz ticker is claiming that IDF have captured 350 Lebanese soldiers in Marjayoun.
    Fog of war???
    Not seen any comments yet on the apparent compromise between the US and France for a UN resolution calling for a cease-fire.
    “The breakthrough is based on the inclusion in the call for a cessation of hostilities for a progressive Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory to go simultaneously with the deployment of the Lebanese army backed by reinforced UN peacekeepers.”
    The source said the peacekeepers would mainly be reinforced by French soldiers. As part of the deal, Hezbollah would pull out from south of the Litani river.

    Why would HA “pull out from south of the Litani river” and give up their fortifications that seem to be causing grief to the IDF and as a result have them revealed and located rendering them less useful in the future?

  9. Mo says:

    Col. Lang,
    Unfortunately not. The Israelis got the airport closed 12hrs before I was due to land there. I am getting constant updates as it seems text messaging is as resiliant as Hizbollah.
    This war is definitely not about water, but, I think part of the victory the Israelis envisaged may have included taking control of the Wazzani springs. These have been a constant source of friction between Lebanon and Israel.
    In addition to what CoL. Lang said,you are presuming Hizbollah dont have any static positions north of the Litani. They have been preparing for this for 6 years abd would most likley have prepared forces from the border to Beirut. In such a scenario, it is more likely any landing party would have ended up cut off.

  10. searp says:

    Seems to me the Israeli response is to depopulate the south, turn it into a free-fire zone and roll in heavy forces. They will take casualties, but eventually they will kill or capture those HA fighters.
    Doesn’t end the war of course, the border just moves north. As I said before, the Israeli army will be more exposed, even if the Israeli civilians are more protected. HA will not be destroyed, and any hope of a meaningful diplomatic settlement will be long gone. I must say I simply do not see diplomacy doing much here, so maybe there is no great loss.

  11. Wombat says:

    Didn’t the Israelis land a force behind the Litani during one of their incursions in the 1980s?

  12. BadTux says:

    It is what is inside these men that counts. As the old “gunny” says in “Full Metal Jacket,” “It is the hard heart that kills.”
    Indeed. HA is not using anything that the Arab armies in 1973 did not use, albeit with slight (very slight) technological upgrades to maintain their capabilities (e.g. the dual-stage warheads on their Saggers). They’re just using them effectively.
    Lebanon reports (via AP) that approximately 350 Lebanese Army soldiers, officials, and police are being held in the government compound in the mostly-Christian city of Marjayou. Apparently, reading between the lines, they are being used as human shields by the IDF, who are beseiged by Hizbullah. If true, this would be an ironic twist on Israel’s tired platitude that HA is using the civilians of Lebanon as human shields.

  13. blowback says:

    Mo – this war has shown too dogmas to be false.
    The first is that the Israeli Army is invincible to Arabs. There is something dodgy about an army that can claim that it has advanced closer to Beirut by capturing Marjayoun which is only two miles into Lebanon and was populated by ex-members of the SLA.
    The second is that the rockets held by Hezbollah are an Iranian deterrent to Israel. Although the rockets have caused a number of deaths and considerable damage and disruption the economy, Israel can get by.
    The following is guess work so I could be wrong.
    Wombat/Pat – the other problem with the Israelis launching a airborne/seaborne assault to the north of the Litani River to cut Hezbollah off from the rest of Lebanon is that Hezbollah seem to have all the ammunition and supplies they need to sustain this war for several months in their operational areas so that they can’t be cutoff.
    Also, Hezbollah seem to be a ‘networked’ fighting force, there are claims that so far the fighting has been done by their local forces in those areas where the Israeli forces have attacked, with local forces in other areas waiting for the Israelis to attack them. This would suggest that they have no flanks and no rear so there is little point in getting behind them as you would still be facing the local forces.

  14. m.hasan says:

    “It is what is inside these men that counts. As the old “gunny” says in “Full Metal Jacket,” “It is the hard heart that kills.”
    Amen. All analysts of the phenomenal performance of HA fighters (till this moment) agree totally with your conclusion. The will and doctrine of the fighter comes as an explanation before the equipment or weaponry he uses. An Israeli ex-general said after the fight at Bent Jbail that he would be proud to command a battalion formed of these men. In 1995 and before any fortifications the late Israeli PM Rabin said that it seems that HA succeeded in convincing God to fight side by side with them. I can not help but compare this performance at the battlefield with Israeli pilots shooting at a funeral of 30 civilian victims killed the day before by the IAF . Not only killing the civilians but denying them the right to be buried.

  15. W. Patrick Lang says:

    From the
    “Free Republic” site on the 1982 war.
    “Lesson 22: Amphibious operations have a role in urban warfare. Israel conducted two amphibious landings; a small one in support of operations in Tyre and a much larger one in about brigade strength during the campaign to capture Sidon.
    Lesson 23: Special forces played a limited, but significant, role in Israeli operations. Israeli naval commandos made the initial landings during amphibious operations just north of Sidon and secured the beachhead for follow-on landing forces. This was the first major amphibious operation carried out by the Israeli Navy.
    Lesson 24: Naval forces can play an important supporting role in urban operations. Israeli naval forces were used to conduct amphibious operations to achieve tactical surprise and to isolate Tyre and Sidon at the outset of the campaign. These were technically difficult to conduct due to a shortage of landing craft. Indeed, the Israel Navy had to keep shuttling the landing craft back and forth the 55 kilometers between the beaches north of Sidon and Israel. At Sidon, the Navy also took the ancient port under fire. Due to Beirut’s coastal location, the Israeli Navy also played an important part in isolating the PLO and other hostile forces in West Beirut near the coast. Additionally, the Navy provided modest fire support using its 76mm guns, but its main activities involved coastal patrols to prevent reinforcement of PLO positions or the seaborne delivery of supplies. Other tactical missions included preventing opposition forces from mining the beach or preparing defensive position.”
    Maybe we will see this again. pl

  16. Matthew says:

    Col. Lang:
    1. What has the Isr/Hez war taught us about the future of armor? And how much does an anti-tank missile cost compared to a Merkava?
    2. Do you think that regional military planners are completely revising their strategies in light of Hez’s success?
    3. Has this war proven that rockets will be the great equalizer in future Isr/Arab conflicts?
    P.S. All the posts today by your readers are excellent.

  17. blowback says:

    The Guardian is reporting that:
    Hizbullah’s older anti-tank weapons have been effective against armoured personnel carriers and buildings used by soldiers for shelters. Its newer weapons such as the Russian Kornet and US TOW missiles have been highly effective succeeded in piercing the armour of Israel’s main battle tank, the Merkava, reputedly one of the best-defended tanks in the world.

  18. Mo says:

    Israeli naval commandos tried a couple of operations during the 90’s, one of which I remember ended very disastrously with the loss of more than 10 men. With all respect to the PLO, they are no Hizbollah and did not have the organisation and professionalism HA have in monitory coastal activity. I seriously doubt we’ll see such an operation, unless of course HA set another trap for them.
    Searp, if you have a look at the second link the Colonel posted on this article, you have to wonder who is pushing who back.
    Badtux, if you want a truly ironic twist on the whole civilians as a human sheild check out:
    A quick summary of it shows you that not only has Israel placed many of its military installations in residential areas, but that most of HA’s supposedly unguided rockets have been aimed at these installations.
    However, from what ive heard you are reading between the lines correctly. They have these people hostage and HA have the barracks surrounded. Should be an interesting night.
    I think you are right, although I think the jury’s out on the idea of the rockets not being a detterant for three reasons:
    1- Im not sure how long half of Israel could cope with being refugees or couped up in shelters.
    2- In the 82 invasion the Israelis killed over 10,000 civilians.
    3-While this was supposed to be the war that put HA in its place and be the detterent to all future HA activity, it may be that the rockets, though not an in-war detterent, may act as a detterent to Israel kicking it all off again in future.
    Nasrallah himself confirmed yesterday what you say about HA having no rear and no flanks when he said in this war geography means nothing and there is no front line.
    m.hasan, your quote from an Israeli ex-general reminded me of the head of the UNIFIL Irish battalions quote in 2000, when he said “I wish we had these guys in Ireland 50 years ago, there’d be no northern ireland today”

  19. John in LA says:

    I don’t know whether this war is being fought over water but I do know that the strategic high ground in the ME is often about water.
    When I was at the United Nations one of the most heated (and least written about) treaty issues was the non-navigational uses of international watercourses and subterranean water systems: spring water and upstream/downstream management of surface water.
    –The British invaded/occupied Uganda and Sudan in the 19th century to gain control over the source of the Nile.
    –The Israelis have held fast to the Golan Heights – in part because of its higher altitude firing positions vis Israel, but also water sources.
    –The West Bank stands several hundred feet above Israel — the Aquifer in the West Bank is Israel’s lifeline.
    –And, in the greatest geostrategic water play of them all, Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq all receive their water from the snowpack in Kurdistan — thus, all those nations – Turkic, Persian, Sunni and Shia Arab — will conspire to crush the coming independent Kurdistan.
    Of course they will fail, as per the example of South Lebanon. Can you imagine Turkey sending tank columns into Kurdistan? Fish in a barrel.

  20. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Are you suggesting then that Hizbullah has already achieved Rumsfeld’s nirvana: distributed networked military force in which each combatant is a system (node)?

  21. zanzibar says:

    Israel has asked the Bush administration to speed delivery of short-range antipersonnel rockets armed with cluster munitions, which it could use to strike Hezbollah missile sites in Lebanon, two American officials said Thursday.
    The request for M-26 artillery rockets, which are fired in barrages and carry hundreds of grenade-like bomblets that scatter and explode over a broad area, is likely to be approved shortly, along with other arms, a senior official said.

    The United States had approved the sale of M-26’s to Israel some time ago, but the weapons had not yet been delivered when the crisis in Lebanon erupted. If the shipment is approved, Israel may be told that it must be especially careful about firing the rockets into populated areas, the senior official said.
    Israel has long told American officials that it wanted M-26 rockets for use against conventional armies in case Israel was invaded, one of the American officials said. But after being pressed in recent days on what they intended to use the weapons for, Israeli officials disclosed that they planned to use them against rocket sites in Lebanon. It was this prospect that raised the intense concerns over civilian casualties.

  22. jonst says:

    It may be that it is indeed the hard heart that kills. Although personally, I’ve always believed it is the dedicated heart that kills. Hard, in that case, is beside the point. But in any event I would suggest it is the quick, shrewd, and flexible brain that wins.

  23. chew2 says:

    “This is not guerrilla war. Forget that. This is positional warfare waged using field fortifications as the base and pivot so that a heavier force advancing into the “grid” of the defense can be engaged and defeated by attrition.”
    Some questions regarding the above:
    1. What do you mean by “positional warfare”? Does this mean that most/all of the HB firing positions are fixed.
    2. If the HB are firing from fortified positions, then aren’t they toast once the Israelis lock on to their position and blow them away with heavy bombs.
    3. As you can gather from my questions, I’m inclined to think the HB are still pursuing mainly guerilla/mobile tactics as Nasrulla has declared, i.e. they will not choose to die in fixed positions. They are sheltering in hidden, perhaps fortified, positions, but are going out and firing from other temporary positions so that they can run away. It sounds like the Israeli tank columns are exposed on the flanks as they follow the roads into Lebanon.
    4. As an aside, the Israeli press is reporting that the HB are using Kornet antitank missiles which are of a more recent vintage (1994+) than your posters are claiming. The antitank missiles seem to be what are inflicting most of the casualties.
    5. Another question. The posted Israeli casualties seem to be predominantly sergeants, captains and other officers. Where are the privates? And why is this.
    Thanks much for your insight.

  24. Mo says:

    Zanzibar, re. the article, sounds to me like giving a known burglar a crowbar after assurances that he won’t use it to break into peoples houses

  25. blowback says:

    1. How many civilians have been killed on the Israeli side by the rockets? Less than a hundred? As past experience has shown (London in the Blitz, V1 and V2 attacks, Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Tokyo, Hanoi,……), people can go on functioning under aerial bombardment for a long time.
    2. The number of Lebanese deaths is of no concern to the Israelis except in term of bad PR.
    3. The only way that the rockets can have a major impact on Israel is if the Israeli respond to them by invading Lebanon to try to stop them. The rockets are light artillery rockets (probably less effective than a 155mm shell). So the deterrent effect is there but it is in tying down limited resources to protect the homeland. For instance, one of the often overlooked results of the British/U.S. bombing campaign against Germany in WW2 was the very substantial resources in term of men (well over half a million) and resources (88s and fighter aircraft) that the Germans had to redirect to the home front. Think of the difference that might have made in extending the war.
    However, if the US and/or Israel use nuclear devices on Iran, then all bets are off.
    Babak – yes I am for Hezbollah’s local forces. All the articles I have read of journalist’s encounters with Hezbollah’s local forces suggest a very flat, sparse structure. Since they are for a single purpose, home defence, they can afford to be.
    It also struck me that the reason it has been difficult for Israel to disrupt Hezbollah’s communications is that they are based on nothing more than walkie-talkies. You hear a message and you pass it on unless you hear someone else pass it on. How do the Israelis identify the importance of importance of a particular radio if they are all the same and use weak signals making it far harder for the NSA to intercept signals when there is constant chatter.
    I have the feeling that this type of warfare might be somewhat unique to Lebanon because of the nature of Hezbollah and the terrain (it would not work in open country like desert or the Steppes) and the “front” is of limited width (Hezbollah know roughly where the Israelis are likely to come from) which is why the Syrians have kept out of it. But then again, this network probably covers all Hezbollah controlled areas.

  26. Ghostman says:

    “Other revolutionary armies?”
    1. I could be wrong, but I seem to recall that in a few battles, even Gen. Washington would hold the Colonial Army units back, and put the more rag-tag quasi-civilian umits towards the front to bear the brunt of the redcoats?
    2. I am puzzled as to why I haven’t seen on TV any films of all these tunnels, bunkers, inter-connected defenses, etc. You see, I believe the Israelis have a very well-oiled, slick PR machine. I’ve seen it in action from the day the IDF bombed the airport. Seems like there could be some good PR value in showing off these battlefield structures…all designed to show the world all about these “evil Hizbollah” positions, how these “evil Hizbollans” are dug in, will shoot a man in the back, so forth and so on. Seems like the very slick Israeli PR machine could make some hay off such films. Yet…nothing. Why?
    A. It’s entirely possible that I’m missing something in the equation of the “good PR value” in showing off the “evil” Hizzbollah fortifications.
    B. OR, is it that the Israeli advance, to date, has been even worse than I imagine? That the Israelis haven’t even yet been able to penetrate even one of these defensive positions?
    I just don’t know.

  27. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes, Washington had little use for “militia” in the American sense of the word. He had the experience of watching them run too often to think otherwise. that is why he had Steuben put the Continentals into a training regime that made them into troops who could fight the king’s army.
    So far as I know none of the media biggies have approached HA for access. pl

  28. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Which “von Clausewitz” doctrines are you referring to? pl

  29. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “Guerrilla warfare operates with small, mobile and flexible combat groups called cells, without a front line” Wiki
    “without a front line..” With few exceptions guerrilla armies avoid defending terrain and rely on raids, ambushes and the like, operations from which they approach the objective with stealth and from which they withdraw rapidly after mission accomplishment in order to avoid becoming decisively engaged with heavy enemy forces. They do that to avoid destruction of the force.
    There are notable exceptions but they all involve guerrilla forces in transition a new status as conventional forces.
    It seems to me that HA is now in that stage of development. They are seeking to defend a fortified zone of unknown depth against a heavily armed opponent. That is positional warfare since it is oriented on terrain. pl

  30. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Someone asked about the future of tanks.
    The disappearance of tanks has been predicted since shortly after they were invented for WW1.
    Like any other weapons system tanks have to be used in ways appropriate to their nature.
    The Israelis have gotten used to fighting easy enemies. HA are not the Palestinians. The Israelis have been trying to use the tanks in inappropriate ways and have paid the price that was foreseeable. pl

  31. Abu Sinan says:

    Nice blog. I came here from Juan Cole’s site.
    I think there is a lesson being learned here by groups in the Middle East. Smaller, better trained and better equipped groups can make a stand.
    I dont know if, given the unique situation of Lebanon, this is true, but that is indeed what the people are thinking.
    I am an American citizen married to a Saudi woman. I speak Arabic and watching Arabic news, from Al Jazeera to al Arabiya what hit me is the amount of popular support Hizb’Allah has now amoungst people who wouldnt normally support the Shi’ite group, ie even Saudis are supporting Hizb’Allah even if their government was a bit slow to get on board.
    My sister in law is a professor at a university in Jeddah Saudi Arabia and has told us there is overwhelming support by the students there, from the very begining of the conflict. This is in marked contrast to the reaction from the Saudi establishment.
    This ground swell of support is forcing the governments, and the state sponsored media to change how they view and react to the situation on the ground.

  32. Mo says:

    Blowback, In the main I do think you are right. Im not sure what would have happened if HA were actually targeting civilians rather than, ironically, the military installations based in civilian areas, esp. next to Arab towns and villages. Ive posted this link before if youre interested in regards to the constant Israeli complaints of HA using human sheilds.

  33. Ormolov says:

    Your answer to why the IDF is losing so many officers may be here at
    “Israel’s officer corps has paid a heavy penalty for leading from the front in the two-week war in Lebanon, accounting for up to 40% of the 33 soldiers killed in action so far, Israel Defence Force sources admitted yesterday.
    The elite Golani Brigade lost three officers and five senior NCOs in an ambush at Bint Jbeil on Wednesday and the paratroopers operating at nearby Marun al Ras lost another officer and two men.
    At least two lieutenant-colonels, the rank which commands battalions of 600 soldiers, have been killed in close-range fighting in which small groups of veteran Hizbollah guerrillas have used hidden tunnels, bunkers and an array of booby-traps to pin down the attacking Israelis.”
    Col. Lang,
    Thank you for your excellent site. You and your contributing readers are an invaluable asset for those of us trying to make sense at a distance.

  34. ali says:

    Begin’s foolish 80s invasion of Lebanon was a comparative walkover but resulted in over 1,200 IDF dead in 3 years. The IDF have had around 90 men killed a month just taking a few villages this time and have not yet been able to silence Nasrallah’s rocketry. That’s about the same number of men the Marines lost in Fallujah#2 but the Marines took the city convincingly. The IDF may not be the USMC but they are still a tough, modern, well lead military with some world class units.
    In Hezbollah we have not just the world’s most tactically able terrorists but apparently light infantry of steely quality, now we have them fighting sophisticated battles from well prepared defensive positions. If this the kind of enemy IRGC training produces what in hell would it have been like if we’d have been dumb enough to invade Iran?

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