IDF learnt lessons from Lebanon War

Soldiers simulate a rocket attack on Jaffa in 2008, in a drill conceived as a response to the 2006 Lebanon War

Soldiers simulate a rocket attack on Jaffa in 2008, in a drill conceived as a response to the 2006 Lebanon War

On Tuesday morning, an explosion shook the Upper Galilee, after months of quiet. The shock-wave reminded many that exactly three years ago this week, war broke out in the same area.

Later in the day, when the circumstances of the blast began filtering out, those memories were reinforced.

A hidden Hizbollah katyusha rocket store in a nondescript house had blown up nine miles from the border. This was just the kind of thing that Israel had hoped to eradicate by embarking on what became known as the Second Lebanon War.

For many, the fact that Hizbollah is once again storing its rockets so close to the border, under the nose of UNIFIL patrols, is proof of the futility of the war, which began after two IDF soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, were captured by Hizbollah.

It ended 33 days later with 163 Israelis, civilians and soldiers, killed. The bodies of Mr Regev and Mr Goldwasser were returned only last year.

But there are other views. One senior IDF officer said that “no one should be surprised that Hizbollah is back to its old tricks and we didn’t have much expectations of UNIFIL. Hiding arms in civilian buildings is what they have always done, and we are aware of what is happening.

“That doesn’t mean they are going to use them very soon. The devastating blow they took three years ago hasn’t faded away. Their surprisingly bad showing in last month’s elections also shows that the Lebanese voters haven’t forgotten either.”

Other IDF sources have said that the Hizbollah preparations near the border are mainly defensive.

But the debate still raging over the war focuses more on the IDF than on Hizbollah. The former IDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General (reserve) Dan Halutz, told a symposium at Tel Aviv University on Sunday that “today, in the same circumstances, I would recommend the same course of action”.

Lt Gen Halutz said the quiet on Israel’s northern border over the last three years is proof that his strategy worked.

His deputy during the war, Major General (reserve) Moshe Kaplinsky, was less belligerent, listing at the same event a series of failures by the IDF but saying that the war “had been a wake-up call for the army”.

This view is shared by many in the IDF who believe that the operational success in the Gaza operation six months ago was a direct result of the lessons learnt from Lebanon.

But Lt Gen Halutz, not known for his humility, was admitting little and he even attacked Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who said last week at a memorial service for the war’s fallen that “their bravery often covered up for the mistakes of the higher echelons”.

Mr Barak’s words were “a disgusting use of the bereaved families’ loss”.

Last updated: 4:00pm, July 17 2009