Battle of Bint Jbeil

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Battle of Bint Jbeil
Part of the 2006 Lebanon War
South lebanon map jubayl.png
Map of South Lebanon showing location of Bint Jbeil
Date July 23 – August 11, 2006
Location Bint Jbeil, Southern Lebanon
Result Israel failed to conquer the town[1]
Belligerents
Israel Israel Defense Forces Golden rectangle.png Hezbollah
Strength
Paratroopers brigade
  • 101st battalion
  • 890th battalion
  • Recon battalion

Golani brigade

  • 51st battalion
  • Recon battalion
  • Egoz unit

7th armored brigade
847th armored brigade
Units from the 52nd battalion (401st brigade)
Units from air force and artillery[2]

100-150 fighters in the region, incl. 40 Special Force (IDF estimate)[3][4]
Casualties and losses
17 dead[5] (Israel) 32 local Hezbollah fighters killed (Hizbullah claim)[6]
"A very large number" (Winograd Report)[7]
"Dozens" (Reuven Erlich)[8]

The Battle of Bint Jbeil was one of the main battles of the 2006 Lebanon War. Bint Jbeil (Arabic: بنت جبيل‎, Bint Jubayl) is a major town of some 20,000, mainly Shia Muslim, inhabitants in Southern Lebanon. Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsh announced on July 25 that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had "complete control" of Bint Jbeil. This statement was later discredited. In spite of three sustained attempts by the IDF to conquer the town, it remained in the hands of Hizbullah until the end of the war.[9] The town was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the war, with both sides taking heavy losses. Two senior Israeli officers, including Major Roi Klein, were killed in the battle. Hizbullah similarly lost several commanders, most notably Khalid Bazzi, the Hizbullah commander of the Bint Jbeil area.

Background[edit]

Bint Jbeil was a major center for the Lebanese resistance during the 18 years of Israeli occupation. Following Israel's withdrawal from Bint Jbeil in 2000 the town became an important base for Hizbullah. Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah held his victory speech in Bint Jbeil after the Israeli withdrawal, in front of a joyful audience of more than 100 000 people, Muslims and Christians, where he belittled Israeli power:[10]

"Barak is today calling on Lebanon to consider the withdrawal as a token of peace. This is treachery. He left having no other option... Barak still holds our prisoners in his jails, occupies territory dear to us - namely the Shebaa Farms... every prisoner in Israeli jails will soon, God willing, be back home among you. Barak and his government have no choice: I advice him to leave the Shebaa farms... he has no other choice... I tell you: the Israel that owns nuclear weapons and has the strongest air force in the region is weaker than a spider's web."[11]

According to Israeli journalist Amir Rapaport this speech infuriated the IDF Command which over time developed a "cobwebs complex". The 2006 Lebanon war finally presented an opportunity to get even. Senior IDF officers, such as Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and Chief of Operations Gadi Eisenkot claimed that Bint Jbeil was an important "symbol". They hoped to capture the town and bring an Israeli leader to hold a victory speech at the same place where Nasrallah held his speech in 2000. Instead, according to Rapaport, Bint Jbeil would come to symbolize failure.[2][12]

According to IDF estimates Bint Jbeil and the nearby village of Aynata was defended by 100-140 fighters, about 60 of whom belonged to the local garrison and around 40 belonged to the Hizbullah Special Force.[3][13] The primary aim of the Hizbullah forces in the string of positions along the border was not to hold territory but to bleed the Israelis and slow down their advance.[14]

Operation Webs of Steel 2 (July 23–29)[edit]

Hezbollah weaponry captured in Bint Jbeil

Initially, Israel had no intention to capture Bint Jbeil. Rather, the IDF sought to control the city from outside. Brigadier General Shuky Shachrur, the Northern Command’s chief of staff, said the plan was to raid specific targets based on intelligence. Brigadier General Gal Hirsch told a Table News Network correspondent that "We can direct precise fire at every point that is needed [within the town] and bring the forces to a situation of minimum risk".[15]

However, as the war went on, the Israeli leadership changed its position on Bint Jbeil. Despite the claims of progress there was "nothing tangible to put on display" to show for it, and a clear victory at Bint Jbeil could well be the watershed in the war. A Hizbullah surrender here was hoped to create a "ripple effect" on the other strongholds in South Lebanon.[16]

The IDF, however, was divided over exactly how to deal with the town. Some proposed an outright occupation of the town while others a more subtle approach, surrounding it and raiding Hizbullah positions in it. Brigadier General Gal Hirsch of the 91st Division wanted to conquer Bint Jbeil, not just to raid it. It was his division headquarters that came up with the name "Operation Web of Steel" (Hebrew: מבצע קורי פלדה‎).[17]

The operation was planned as a pincer movement with the Golani Brigade approaching the town from the east and the Paratroopers Brigade from the west. The paratroopers however set out too late and were ordered to halt before reaching their designated positions. Since the painful experiences of the Egoz unit at Maroun ar-Ras, Israeli forces were not allowed to advance in daylight. The northern side of the town was intentionally left open, apparently to provide an escape route for the town's defenders. Instead Hizbullah used the opportunity to send in reinforcements to the town.[2] According to the orders issued by the IDF Northern Command on July 22, the IDF should not enter Bint Jbeil. The town was to be encircled but not occupied.[18]

The Israeli advance was preceded by a massive artillery bombardment. An IDF artillery officer, Lt.-Col. Avi Mano, claimed that Bint Jbeil had been hit by 3,000 shells by July 25. According to the officer, IDF cannons could make direct hits on houses and cause "more damage" than Katyusha rockets.[19]

According to Time magazine over 5,000 Israeli soldiers participated in the siege of Bint Jbeil by July 25 while the number of Hizbullah defenders of the town was estimated to "over 100".[20]

The battle for Bint Jbeil started on July 24 when Israeli forces approached the nearby town of Aynata from the east and approached the Sadr district. Five Golani soldiers were wounded by friendly fire, and two tanks were sent to evacuate them. The first was hit by a missile, killing the platoon commander and wounding two of the crewmen. The second tank, a Merkava IV, ran over a powerful remote-controlled mine and rolled over from the blast. One of the crew was killed and the commander of the 52nd battalion, Lt.-Col. Guy Kabili, as well as his deputy, was wounded. An armor-plated D-9 bulldozer that attempted to rescue the casualties was forced to retreat after being hit by a missile. The wounded were finally evacuated under the cover of a smoke-screen.[2] Altogether 18 soldiers were wounded in the clashes.[21] Five Hizbullah fighters were also killed during the fighting. One of them. Marwan Samahat was killed in the clashes in eastern Aynata. Another four fighters were killed in southern Bint Jbeil, near the Maslakh mosque.[22]

An Apache Longbow attack helicopter flying support mission for ground forces at Bint Jbeil crashed on the same day on the Israeli side of the border, killing both pilots. IAF at first believed that the helicopter accidentally was hit by Israeli MLRS artillery fire.[23] Hizbullah claimed to have shot down the helicopter.[24] An IAF crash investigation team later said that the crash was caused by a "rare technical fault". Investigators from Boeing, the helicopter's manufacturer, however, ruled out a technical fault as the cause of the crash.[25]

Fighting continued into the next day, with the IDF engaging Hizbullah and Amal fighters to surround the town, and securing positions east, west and south of Bint Jbeil and Aynata. Seven Hizbullah and four Amal fighters were killed during the clashes, and eight IDF soldiers were lightly wounded.[26] Although the IDF had so far not entered built-up areas, Gen. Hirsch declared victory to the press. "The town is in our control," he declared on July 25. "The work is almost completed and the terrorists are fleeing." The statement would quickly prove disastrously wrong. An Israeli soldier would later describe his feelings when hearing Hirsch's words over the radio, while being under Sagger missile attack "from every direction" in the town: "you realize something is wrong."[27]

The soldiers of elite Golani Brigade's 51st Battalion had been dreaming of such a mission and were genuinely happy when they were told that they were going to Bint Jbeil.[2] They set out from Avivim and after a night-time march over the Maroun ar-Ras hill reached the southern outskirts of Aynata. In the early hours of the morning on July 26 the orders were suddenly changed. Now the battalion was ordered to sweep into the Bint Jbeil and conquer it.[28]

The Golani brigade commander Col. Tamir Yedai did not leave Israeli territory but remote-controlled the battle from kibbutz Malkia, the civilian settlement where the Golani brigade had established its wartime command post.[29] Because of topographical reasons he frequently lost contact with his men in Lebanon. Battalion commander Lt.-Col. Yaniv Asor commanded the first company while his deputy, Maj. Roi Klein commanded the third company.[2]

The third company walked into a well-prepared ambush in the outskirts of Aynata, the town immediately to the east of Bint jbeil. Lebanese accounts of this battle refer to it as "the battle of Aynata" as the Israeli forces had not yet entered Bint Jbeil proper. The olive grove where the clash occurred was later renamed "Liberation square" (Arabic: مربع التحرير‎). The southern section of Aynata was defended by two squads [majmu’a].[22] A Hizbullah squad would normally include 7 – 10 fighters.[30]

Platoon commander Merchavia and two of his men were killed immediately as they entered the olive grove surrounded by high wall. One Hizbullah unit attacked the Israeli force in the grove while a second unit fired at the reinforcements from positions in the upper stories of buildings with small arms and anti-tank rockets. Most of the soldiers from the platoon that entered the olive grove were eventually killed or wounded.[31]

The battalion's deputy commander, Major Roi Klein was seriously wounded when he reportedly covered a hand grenade with his body to save his troops. The only soldier who witnessed the episode, Sgt. Shimon Adega, was killed shortly afterward.[32] Klein was later killed by a second grenade.[33] Then the company commander was injured and his deputy was killed. Lt. Itamar Katz, who did not know the names of his men, took over command. 25 immobile wounded lay in the orchard screaming for help. The 51st battalion seemed to be on the verge of breaking.[32][33]

The battalion did not break but the fighting changed drastically from an offensive military operation to a rescue mission. The IDF sent in reinforcements to provide covering fire while the casualties were evacuated. The troops that arrived as reinforcements suffered lower casualties compared to the first wave. Soldiers often risked their lives not only to save the wounded, but to recover the dead and prevent Hizbullah fighters from reaching their bodies. Combat continued for several hours, and was often conducted at point-blank range. The wounded were carried three kilometers to a place where helicopters could land under the protection of smoke grenades and heavy artillery fire, and soldiers often simultaneously shot at enemy fighters while carrying stretchers.[34] Finally, Israeli Air Force Blackhawk helicopters managed to land under heavy fire and fly the wounded to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. The commanders decided not to risk pilots to evacuate the dead; they were carried out under cover of darkness by a company from the Golani Brigade's 12th Battalion."[35][36]

The IDF suffered 8 dead, including three officers, and 24 wounded in the fighting in Aynata. On the same day an anti-tank missile fired from Bint Jbeil, hit a paratrooper position in nearby Maroun al-Ras and one officer was killed and three soldiers were wounded. Hizbullah also suffered casualties in the battle. The IDF released widely different estimates of the number of Hizbullah killed in the battle, from 15[37][38][39] or "at least 20"[40][41] to "at least 40"[42] or "close to 50"[43] The Lebanese daily as-Safir wrote a year later that only four Hizbullah fighters died in the clash in the olive grove: Amir Fadlallah, Ali as-Sayid, Mahmoud Khanafir and Atif al-Mousawi.[22]

The following night Israeli paratroopers infiltrated Bint Jbeil from the west and took up positions in a number of large villas in the Talat Mas’ud neighborhood overlooking the town. Sporadic clashes continued over the next days.[6]

The IDF claimed that the paratroopers took part in a major engagement on July 29. According to the commander of the paratroopers, the fighting began when two Hizbullah fighters were killed while approaching a building occupied by the paratroopers. Then, at least seven Hizbullah cells attacked the soldiers, employing anti-tank rockets and RPGs. The paratroopers repulsed the attack, and received air support during the battle. The paratrooper commander claimed that "our forces were well prepared and gunned down cell after cell. We saw them falling". The IDF claimed that 26 Hizbullah fighters were killed, and put its own casualties at 6 wounded, one of them seriously (possibly by one of his own rockets after it malfunctioned).[44][45]

Lebanese accounts of the battle do not mention this clash and do not confirm any Hizbullah casualties in Bint Jbeil on this date. Lebanese daily as-Safir reported that a Hizbullah reconnaissance squad attacked IDF positions in Tallat Mas’oud on July 28, prompting an overnight Israeli withdrawal from the district.[6]

Also on July 29, two Hizbullah commanders and a third fighter who was accompanying them were killed in an Israeli airstrike in the Old City of Bint Jbeil. The house they were occupying collapsed after being bombed, killing all three of them. The two commanders were identified as Khalid Bazzi (al-Hajj Qasim) and Muhammad Abu Ta'am. Bazzi was chief of operations in the Bint Jbeil area, including Maroun al-Ras, Aynata, Aytaroun and Bint Jbeil, while Abu Ta'am was responsible for the town itself. Both had taken part in the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers that had started the war.[46]

There are suggestions that Bazzi earlier had refused to obey orders to withdraw from the town saying that he would "only leave as a martyr".[47] Hizbullah commanders who spoke to Lebanese al-Akhbar a year after the war did not confirm this version of events. According to them the proper place for a commander was with his fighters on the battlefield. Bazzi and Abu Taam however were critizised for violating military regulations by being at the same place during a battle.[6][46] The IDF had earlier claimed that Bazzi was killed in Maroun al-Ras several days earlier.[48] Bazzi was succeeded by Muhammad Qansuh (Sajid ad-Duwayr), a special force commander who in turn would be killed by an Israeli airstrike 10 days later.[49][50]

On the same day, the IDF pulled its troops from Bint Jbeil, but armored units continued to operate around the town.[45]

Respite[edit]

On July 30 Israel launched an airstrike on a civilian building in the town of Qana, to the north of Bint Jbeil, in which 28 Lebanese civilians were killed, including 16 children. Under American pressure Israel declared a two-day suspension of air strikes on targets in southern Lebanon. Israel also agreed to allow a 24-hour “window” where the United Nations could assist locals who wanted to leave southern Lebanon.[51][52][53] Hizbullah reciprocated and suspended all its rocket attacks on northern Israel.[54]

After 19 days of continuous shelling Bint Jbeil at last experienced a lull in the fighting. Large sections of the town had been reduced to rubble and hundreds of survivors, mainly the old and infirm who had been unable to escape from the battlefield, emerged from the ruins. A convoy of ambulances from the Lebanese Red Cross arrived at the town and began evacuating the civilians. The United Nations and Hizbullah fighters also assisted in the evacuation of civilians.[55][56]

The Salah Ghandour hospital was the only hospital in the area and had been hit several times by Israeli shells. It had no fuel for its generators and was finally abandoned during the pause in the fighting. Fouad Taha, the hospital's director and only remaining physician, and the other staff helped in the evacuation of the remaining civilians before leaving the town. He had survived a direct hit on his night quarters. "We're feeling guilty leaving people behind," he said.[57]

Operation Change of Direction (August 1–9)[edit]

Hezbollah communication devices captured in Bint Jbeil

According to the Winograd report there were ground battles in Bint Jbeil during Operation Change of Direction 8 (1-3 of August) but it gives no details.[58] There are no other reports confirming any serious fighting in Bint Jbeil, or of any Israeli casualties, during this period. Lebanese sources claim that "what appeared to be a truce" [hudna] was observed from July 29 until August 7, when Operation Change of Direction 10 was launched.[6]

In the beginning of August discussions were held at IDF command about what to do about Bint Jbeil. Chief of Staff Halutz decided to occupy the remaining pockets of resistance close to the border; Bint Jbeil, Ayta ash-Sha’b and Mays al-Jabal. This time Bint Jbeil would be effectively surrounded and attacked simultaneously from all sides. The operation was to be completed by August 8.[59]

On the evening of August 6, the battle began again. The Israeli advance into Bint Jbeil was slow. The following day a paratrooper was killed and four others were wounded in a clash that lasted several hours. Two Israeli tank crew members, including a senior officer, were killed and two others injured when their tank was hit by an anti-tank missile. The IDF claimed that 5 Hizbullah fighters were also killed during the clash.[60]

A column of tanks was ordered to occupy the former Israeli headquarters building in Saff al-Hawa neighborhood in the northern outskirts of the town, close to the place where Nasrallah held his "cobweb" speech in 2000. Paratrooper Brigade commander Hagai Mordechai was commissioned the task of hoisting the Israeli flag on this building. Thus began the so-called "Battle of the Flag".[59]

At the entrance to Bint Jbeil stood a large ten-story building, later nicknamed "the Monster" by Israeli soldiers, where about ten Hizbullah fighters had taken up positions, preventing further Israeli advance. A heavy exchange of fire ensued, and the Israelis were reluctant to call in an airstrike because of its proximity to the Salih Ghandour hospital. Although it was assumed to be vacant, Israel did not want to risk a repetition of the disastrous mistake in Qana. While advancing on the building an Israeli soldier was critically wounded in a suspected friendly fire incident. It was clear that the soldier would not survive unless he could be taken to hospital. The wounded soldier was evacuated in a dramatic rescue operation but died in the helicopter before reaching the hospital. Another soldier was killed in the rescue operation. The Israeli Air Force eventually bombed the building, causing it to collapse. According to the IDF, at least four Hezbollah fighters were also killed.[59][61]

Mordechai told his deputy to "take the flag, put it on the building where [the Israeli] forces are, take pictures and leave. No one should die for this picture.” The flag was raised on a different building than intended and a photograph taken (reproduced here [62]). In the end, the IDF decided not to publish the picture. By the time it was ready to be distributed it had become irrelevant. The IDF had already begun to withdraw from the town.[59]

On the same day Chief of Operation Gadi Eisenkot had to inform the Israeli cabinet that the army had not occupied Bint Jbeil and some other localities close to the border.[63] Hizbullah managed to hold its positions in the town throughout the war.[1] In the last days of the war the fighting was concentrated to areas north of the town and there were no reports of heavy fighting in the town itself.

Less than three days before the ceasefire Operation Changing Direction 11 was launched with the aim of pushing further into Lebanese territory. About a dozen Israeli soldiers died in the fighting around the villages of Hadatha, Yatar, at-Tiri, Rashaf and Ayta az-Zut, to the north of Bint Jbeil. In spite of the fact that the IDF was ordered once again to capture Bint Jbeil, there are no reports of any offensive Israeli action against Hizbullah positions in the town itself.

A New York Times correspondent accompanied a platoon from the Golani 51st Battalion in the last days of the war. The unit occupied an unfinished building in the Bint Jbeil area. A Merkava tank was hit by a Kornet missile wounding two soldiers. After the top floor of the house was hit by a missile strike the IDF soldiers took shelter in the most secure part of the building, the first floor bathroom, and remained there for 36 hours. The experience two weeks earlier made the Golani soldiers wary of casualties.[64]

On the last hours before the cease-fire came into effect Lieutenant Adam Kima was ordered to clear a road going westward out of Bint Jbeil. Kima refused to obey orders, claiming a high risk of being exposed to Hizbullah ambushes. The officer and five of his soldiers were arrested and sentenced to prison for 2–3 weeks (though released early).[65][66]

By the beginning of September Israeli forces had withdrawn from the area of Bint Jbeil and control was transferred to the Lebanese army and United Nations peacekeeping forces.[67]

Some have commented that this battle had a psychological component outweighing its military significance. Uri Bar-Joseph wrote about Dan Halutz in Haaretz "He pushed for ineffectual military initiatives with a high casualty toll, like the conquest of Bint Jbail, which was meant to create a spectacle of victory in the place where Nasrallah delivered his "spider web" speech following the IDF pullout in May 2000."[68][69]

The battle of the bodies[edit]

IDF has a long standing policy of not leaving wounded or dead soldiers on the battle field and would at times go to great lengths to retrieve them. At the same time Israel has maintained a policy of not returning to families for burial the remains of killed militants that had engaged in "hostile terrorist activity". Instead they are buried in fenced-off so called "cemeteries for enemy dead", maintained by IDF military rabbinate, in what the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem considers a "demeaning and shameful manner".[70]

This policy was particularly pronounced in the 2006 Lebanon war and would have a profound effect on the conduct of the war. IDF Chief of Staff Halutz repeatedly ordered Israeli troops during the war to capture the bodies of slain Hizbullah militants to "to show to the media".[71] During the war Israel also released footage to FOX news of the slain Hizbullah fighter Hadi Hasrallah, the 18-year old son of Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, killed in a clash in south Lebanon 1997 and whose body was retained by Israel. His remains were returned to Lebanon in an exchange in 1998.[72]

Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsh, commander of Division 91, declared on July 25 that IDF "planned to take several bodies of dead guerrillas captive" in the battle of Bint Jbeil.[19] In the first week of August Israel claimed to have captured five Hizbullah operatives in the vicinity of Bint Jbeil.[73] In fact IDF only captured four Hizbullah fighters throughout the war and none in the Bint Jbeil region. The bodies of at least three Hizbullah fighters, who were killed in the battle of Bint Jbeil, were captured by IDF and brought to Israel. The remains of Mousa Khanafir, Zayd Haydar and Marwan Samahat were returned to Lebanon in the prisoner exchange on 15 July 2008.[74]

Veteran Israeli war correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai claimed that "in almost any ground battle, the moment our troops encountered resistance, the force's progress stopped, commanders demanded assistance, and the fighting focused on evacuating casualties from the battlefield… you will not find even one story about a force that fought until it completed its mission or a Hizbullah force that was defeated."[75]

Although the IDF did not conquer Bint Jbeil, they fought hard and succeeded in preventing the to preventing their comrades' bodies from falling into Hizbullah's hands.[76]

Aftermath[edit]

Israel sent its regular forces, the Golani infantry brigade and the Paratroopers brigade to Bint Jbeil. The IDF enjoyed a tremendous superiority both in numbers and firepower as well as absolute air superiority. The over 5,000 IDF soldiers laying a siege around the town were faced by little more than 100 Hizbullah fighters.[20] The IDF failed to conquer the town or to make any other tangible operational achievements. According to Kober the Israeli withdrawal was "correctly interpreted by Hizballah as a great victory for the organization.[77]

The Winograd Commission devoted a special chapter to the battle of Bint Jbeil and especially to the deadly clash on July 26.[78] The commission concluded that what was described as a "division-sized battle" was in reality no more than a "series of limited engagements between IDF forces and Hizbullah fighters on the eastern edge, and to some extent on the western edge of the town."[79] According to the report the failure capture Bint Jbeil became "a symbol of the unsuccessful action of the Israel Defense Forces throughout the fighting."[80]

Hizbullah considered the battle of Bint Jbeil a remarkable victory. The IDF forces participating in the battle were vastly superior, both in terms of numbers and of firepower. According to Israeli estimates the towns were only defended by a company-sized force (100-140 men) and yet Hizbullah fighters succeeded in holding four IDF brigades at bay. Hizbullah commanders later estimated that they were outnumbered 10 or 20 to one in the battles.[6] The IDF often released conflicting estimates of the number of Hizbullah militants killed in the various clashes during the war. No overall estimate was published after the war. A semi-official Israeli study claimed that "dozens" of Hizbullah militants where killed in the battle.[8] The Winograd Commission only claimed that "a large number" were killed.[81] Hizbullah has yet to publish official casualty statistics from the battle or indeed from the war itself.[82] It is clear however that dozens of Hizbullah fighters died in the battle. Local Hizbullah commanders told Lebanese Daily as-Safir that Bint Jbeil lost 18 fighters while Aynata lost 14 in the battle. Among those killed were several commanders, including Khalid Bazzi, the overall Hizbullah commander of the Bint Jbeil area. A Hizbullah commander told as-Safir that most of the fighters who died in the battle were killed by the shelling while only a "small number" died in the clashes with Israeli troops. Hizbullah usually dominated the battle field "because of the courage of the fighters, their steadfastness and knowledge of the terrain".[6] But the total number of fatalities in the battles in the Bint Jbeil area could well be higher than 32. Hizbullah sent reinforcements to the town during the war, including 40 members of the elite Special Force unit. The unit's commander, Muhammad Qansuh (Sajid ad-Duwayr), from the village of ad-Duwayr was killed in the last day of the war.[49][50]

The Israeli army's failure in the war in general and especially its inability to conquer Bint Jbeil generated bitterness in Israel. The war had not ended before the recriminations inside the IDF Command started flying. The commander of the 7th Brigade, Col. Amnon Eshel was caught by a TV camera saying that his superior officer Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsh "does not understand what is going on on the battlefield",[83] a statement that probably ended his military career. Hirsch shot back, accusing Eshel of never once entering Lebanon himself, only watching the war from his "plasma screen" in his HQ in Israel.[84]

Former Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon's criticism of the Israeli conduct of the war was scathing, calling it a "catastrophe". Aware of the seriousness of the antitank threat, he says that the IDF should have left the vulnerable tanks at home and stayed away from built-up areas – "no tanks and no houses" – and to operate in a more guerrilla like type of warfare. He was especially critical of the attempted occupation of Bint Jbeil.[85]

Center of Bint Jbeil after the war

Commander of Northern Command Udi Adam was practically dismissed on 8 August 2006 - after his failure to capture Bint Jbeil - when the Chief of Staff Dan Halutz sent his deputy, Moshe Kaplinsky, to serve as a "coordinator" at Northern Command. Adam resigned from the army a month after the war. The Chief of Staff himself resigned from his post in January 2007 and his deputy Kaplinsky retired from the army in late 2007. Gen. Hirsch became the prime target for the widespread frustration in Israel after the war, having direct responsibility both for the abduction affair and the failures at Bint Jbeil and Ayta ash-Sha'b. He was forced to resign a few months after the war.[86][87]

After his resignation, former Chief of Staff Halutz said that "the most blatant non-achievement or failure" of the war was allowing it to continue for so long. If the initial battles at Maroun al-Ras and Bint Jbeil had been more successful the final ground operation could have been avoided. "We could have achieved a lot more if we had been more determined,” he said.[88]

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was very disappointed at the army's lack of "results" in Bint Jbeil but did not question the courage of the Israeli soldiers. "If Maroun al-Ras had looked different, if Bint Jbail had looked different, it could be that we would not have reached the point we reached."[89]

The 51st Golani Battalion was left scarred by the traumatic experience in Bint Jbeil. Battalion 51 has a dark history in Lebanon, losing 9 men in three days in two incidents in October 1997.[90] It had suffered 8 dead, including several officers, and 20 wounded. Many of the survivors suffered from shell-shock or post traumatic stress syndrome. Five years later some would still suffer from concentration problems, nightmares and impatience or finding it difficult to cope with their daily lives.[91] Soldiers complained that their mental needs were ignored by their officers. Their battalion commander, Lt.-Col. Asor, was appointed commander on the Egoz unit. He was replaced by an officer from outside the Golani Brigade, who had no understanding for old Golani traditions. When the battalion commander did not show up at a memorial service for the eight Golani dead from the Lebanon war a rebellion broke out. About a hundred soldiers rose up and just walked out of the Tze'elim training base outside Beer Sheva. This was one of the largest "revolts" in the history of the IDF.[92] One of the leaders of the "Golani rebellion" was St.-Sgt. Shiran Amsili, who received a medal for his part in the battle of Bint Jbeil. He was sent to jail for two months for his involvement in the protest.[93] Another 10 soldiers were sent to jail for one or two months and seven other soldiers were confined to their base for a month.[92]

Civilian Casualties[edit]

Apparently Chief of Staff Dan Halutz at one time demanded that Bint Jbeil be "wipe[d] out from the air " but the demand was rejected by the defence minister.[94] The town was however subjected to intensive artillery shelling throughout the war and the destruction of buildings and other civilian infrastructure was widespread. Israeli journalist Ron Ben Yishai visited Bint Jbeil after the war and observed that "only several houses in the big town are still standing."[95] According to data from UNDP 2,512 housing units in the Bint Jbeil district were destroyed and another 1,908 were damaged. Fully 14,799 buildings were "impacted", representing 87 percent of all buildings in the district.[96]

According to Lebanese sources in Aynata 27 civilians[22] were killed during the battle while 18 civilians were killed in Bint Jbeil.[6] 41 villagers were killed in Aitaroun.[97] The Lebanese Government prepared a report for the UN Human Rights Council about what it termed "collective massacres" committed by the Israeli army in the 2006 war.[98] The list contained three incidents concerning civilian victims in the village of Aytaroun:

  • 12 July Houses of Ali and Hassan Al-Akhrass (11 killed)
  • 17 July Houses of Mohammed and Hassan Awada (13 killed)
  • 19 Jul Convoy fleeing village (4 killed)

Israel Defense Forces fatalities[edit]

July 24, 2006

  • Col. Tzvi Luft (Helicopter pilot), 42, of Kibbutz Hogla[99]
  • 1st Lt. Tom Farkash (Helicopter pilot), 23, of Caesarea[99]
  • 2nd Lt. Lotan Slavin (Battalion 52), 21, of Hatzeva[99]
  • St.-Sgt. Kobi Smileg (Battalion 52), 20, of Rehovot[99]

July 26, 2006

Aug 7, 2006

  • Maj.(res.) Yotam Lotan (Armored Corps), 33, of Beit Hashita[99]
  • St.-Sgt.(res.) Noam Meirson (Armored Corps), 23, of Jerusalem[99]
  • St.-Sgt. Moshe (Malko) Ambao (Paratroopers), 22, of Lod[99]

Aug 8, 2006

  • St.-Sgt. Oren Lifschitz (Paratroopers Recon. Bat.), 21, of Gazit[99]
  • St.-Sgt. Moran Cohen (Paratroopers Recon. Bat.), 21, of Ashdot Ya'akov[99]

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Arkin, William M. (July 2007). "Divining Victory: Airpower in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War". Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Air University Press. 
  • Cambanis, Thanassis, A Privilege to Die, Inside Hezbollah's Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel, Free Press, New York, 2010
  • Crooke, Alastair and Mark Perry, HOW HEZBOLLAH DEFEATED ISRAEL, Asia Times
PART 1: Winning the intelligence war, Oct 12, 2006
PART 2: Winning the ground war, Oct 13, 2006
PART 3: The political war, Oct 14, 2006
  • Erlich, Dr. Reuven (Col. Ret.), "Hezbollah's use of Lebanese civilians as human shields", Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S), November 2006. [The study was supported by Military Intelligence, the Operations Division of the IDF General Staff, the IDF Spokesperson and the legal experts of the IDF and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.]
  • Harel, Amos; Issacharoff, Avi (2008). 34 Days: Israel, Hezbollah, and the War in Lebanon. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW), "Why They Died", Civilian Casualties in Lebanon during the 2006 War, September 2007
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW), "Flooding South Lebanon", Israel’s Use of Cluster Munitions in Lebanon in July and August 2006, February 2008
  • Kober, Avi (2008). The Israel Defense Forces in the Second Lebanon War: Why the Poor Performance?. The Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 31, No. 1, 3 – 40. 
  • Lubotzky, Asael, from the book From the wilderness and Lebanon, Yediot Books, 2008
מבצע "קורי פלדה" – בינת ג'ביל (Operation Webs of Steel – Bint Jbeil), (Hebrew)
Chapter 1 - The days preceding the War
Chapter 2 - Lebanon
Chapter 3 - Recovery and Consolation of Mourners
  • Noe, Nicholas, Voice of Hezbollah, the statements of Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Verso, London and New York, 2007.
  • Rapaport, Amir: Friendly Fire, How We Failed Ourselves in the Second Lebanon War (עמיר רפפורט, "אש על כוחותינו: כך הכשלנו את עצמנו במלחמת לבנון השנייה"), Sifriya Ma'ariv (2007).
Chapter 1: We have to stop this, (English)
Chapter 15: Go in, Kill Some Terrorists, Get out, (English)
Chapter 23: The battle of the flag (הקרב על הדגל), (Hebrew)

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The final Winograd Commission report, p. 364 and 368
  2. ^ a b c d e f Rapaport, ch. 15
  3. ^ a b Ehrich, p. 77
  4. ^ Harel, p. 139
  5. ^ Kober, p. 28
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Zaynab Yaghi (09/07/2007). "معركـة بنـت جبيـل: يوم ظنّ الإسرائيليون أن الزيتون يطلق النار عليهم (The battle of Bint Jbeil: A day when the Israelis thought the olive trees opened fire at them)". as-Safir. Retrieved Jan 6, 2012. 
  7. ^ The Final Winograd Commission Report, p. 364 http://www.vaadatwino.gov.il/reports.html#null
  8. ^ a b Erlich, Part Two: Documentation, p.23
  9. ^ Operation Webs of Steel 2 (July 23–29), Change of Direction 8 (August 1–3) and Change of Direction 10 (August 6–9), see The final Winograd Commission report, p. 364-74
  10. ^ Noe, p. 232
  11. ^ Victory speech, May 26, 2000, Noe, pp. 232-43
  12. ^ Yaakov Katz (2006-07-25). "IDF looks to reclaim the Bint Jbail symbol". Retrieved Dec 28, 2011. 
  13. ^ Harel and Issacharoff, p. 139
  14. ^ Exum, p.10
  15. ^ Kober, Avi (2008). The Israel Defense Forces in the Second Lebanon War: Why the Poor Performance?. The Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 31, No. 1, 3 – 40, p 28
  16. ^ Yaakov Katz (2006-07-26). "Analysis: The need to show a victory". Retrieved Dec 28, 2011. 
  17. ^ Harel and Issacharoff, p. 138
  18. ^ Final Winograd report, p. 366
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  20. ^ a b Tim McGirk (July 25, 2006). "Behind Israel's New Battle Plan". Time magazine. Retrieved Aug 25, 2012. 
  21. ^ Officer, soldier killed in Lebanon battle, Ynetnews, 25 July 2006
  22. ^ a b c d Sa’da Alwah (10/07-2007). "معركـة عينـاثـا: ليـأت حالوتـس ويقـد المعركـة هنـا (The battle of Aynatha: Let Halutz come and lead the battle here)". as-Safir. Retrieved Dec 28, 2011. 
  23. ^ Amos Harel (Jul 26, 2006). "Apache crash probably caused by friendly fire". Haaretz. Retrieved 2012-09-10. 
  24. ^ Hanan Greenberg (2006-07-25). "Day of fighting: 2 pilots killed in crash". Yedioth Achronoth. Retrieved 2012-09-10. 
  25. ^ Amnon Barzilai (7 September 06). "Dispute between Boeing, IAF over Apache crash". Globes. Retrieved 2012-09-10. 
  26. ^ Fighting rages as Israel besieges Hezbollah border HQ
  27. ^ Tal Rabinovsky (07.12.2007). "'Who could believe we'd ever come back here? It is madness'". Yedioth Ahronoth. Retrieved Dec 28, 2011. 
  28. ^ Yaakov Katz. "Hear, O Israel". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved Aug 25, 2012. 
  29. ^ Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel (Jul 28, 2006). "Reliving a nightmare". Haaretz. Retrieved Sep 18, 2012. 
  30. ^ Exum, p.5
  31. ^ Harry de Quetteville (30 Jul 2006). "Soldiers' tale of Bint Jbail bloodbath". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved Aug 25, 2012. 
  32. ^ a b Ilan Kfir (2006-11-25). "קליין הפיל עצמו קדימה וזעק שמע ישרא (Klein threw himself forward and shouted Hear O Israel)". Maariv. Retrieved Feb 25, 2012. 
  33. ^ a b Lubotzky, Operation Webs of Steel – Bint Jbeil
  34. ^ http://www.haaretz.com/news/wounded-troops-describe-bint-jbail-battle-as-hell-on-earth-1.193907
  35. ^ "'It was all so very fast - the shooting, the shouting'". Jerusalem Post. 2006-07-28. 
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  37. ^ Amos Harel, Eli Ashkenazi and Haaretz Correspondents (Jul 26, 2006). "Nine IDF soldiers killed,27 hurt, in bitter south Lebanon fighting". Retrieved Aug 25, 2012. 
  38. ^ "Hezbollah Weaponry Captured in Bint Jbeil". IDF. July 26, 2006. Retrieved Sep 1, 2012. 
  39. ^ Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu (July 27, 2006). "Hizbullah Used Civilians, Mosques in Attack on IDF". Retrieved July 3, 2013. 
  40. ^ craig s. smith (July 27, 2006). "For Israeli Unit, Hezbollah Lair Is Ambush Site". New York Times. Retrieved July 3, 2013. 
  41. ^ Hanan Greenberg (07.27.06). "IDF: Enemy hit hard in Bint Jbeil fighting". Retrieved Aug 25, 2012. 
  42. ^ yaakov katz (2006-07-26). "8 soldiers killed in Battle of Bint Jbail". Retrieved Aug 25, 2012. 
  43. ^ Hanan Greenberg (07.26.06). "9 IDF troops killed in day of fighting". Retrieved Aug 25, 2012. 
  44. ^ http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3283076,00.html
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  46. ^ a b Kamil Jabir (2007-07-29). "خالد بزي (قاسم) يكتب ملحمة بنت جبيل (Khalid Bazzi (Qasim) writes the Bint Jbeil epic)". al-Akhbar. Retrieved Jan 3, 2012. 
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  49. ^ a b Nisreen Idrees. "ساجد الدوير في بنت جبيل ساحة النزال الأخيرة ("Sajid ad-Duwayr" the last battlefield in Bint Jbeil)". bintjbeil.org. Retrieved Dec 28, 2011. 
  50. ^ a b The Associated Press and Gideon Alon (2006-08-16). "IDF: Troops killed top Hezbollah man minutes before cease-fire". Haaretz. Retrieved Jan 3, 2012. 
  51. ^ "Israel halts airstrikes for 48 hours". CNN. 2006-07-30. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  52. ^ "Israel/Lebanon: Qana Death Toll at 28", Human Rights Watch, August 2, 2006
  53. ^ Harel and Issacharoff, p. 166
  54. ^ Harel and Issacharoff, p. 170
  55. ^ Ferry Biedermann (July 31, 2006). "Last survivors flee the ruins of Bint Jbeil". Financial Times. Retrieved Dec 24, 2012. 
  56. ^ "Israel OKs expansion of Lebanon campaign". CNN. 2006-07-31. 
  57. ^ Anthony Shadid (August 1, 2006). "Survivors Rise From Rubble Of Battered Lebanese Village". Washington Post. Retrieved Dec 24, 2012. 
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  59. ^ a b c d Rapaport, ch. 23
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  61. ^ Hanan Greenberg (08.09.06). "Lebanon: Soldier rescues friend, both die of wounds". Yedioth Ahronoth. Retrieved Jan 3, 2012. 
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  67. ^ THE DAILY STAR: UNIFIL offers beacon of security in South
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  82. ^ During the war Hizbullah only occasionally published its losses. A tally made by AP counted to 70 by the end of the war. After the war Hizbullah leader Mahmoud Komati said that 250 Hizbullah fighters had been killed in the war. That number was also confirmed by an investigation by Human Rights Watch (HRW (2007), p. 79). Israeli spokespersons later lowered the estimate from 800 to 600 killed.
    Sam Ghattas (28 Dec 2006). "Lebanon Sees More Than 1,000 War Deaths". Associated Press. Retrieved Jan 3, 2012. 
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