06 October 2008
By JOSEF FEDERMAN
JERUSALEM (AP) —
Israel will use "disproportionate force" if Hezbollah guerrillas attack Israel, a senior military commander said in published comments Friday, adding that any village used to fire missiles against the Jewish state will be destroyed.
Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, who commands forces along Israel's northern border, issued a similar threat against Syria.
Eizenkot spoke to the Yediot Ahronot daily more than two years after Israel fought an inconclusive 33-day war against Hezbollah. That war, in which Hezbollah lobbed some 4,000 rockets and missiles into Israel, was widely seen as a failure, and Eizenkot has been busy rehabilitating the army's readiness since taking up his post in the aftermath of the fighting.
Eizenkot said Israel would show no mercy on Lebanese villages that harbor Hezbollah fighters. Israel has repeatedly complained that Hezbollah fighters used residential areas for cover, limiting Israel's ability to respond.
Eizenkot stressed that this is "not a recommendation," but a plan approved by the highest levels. "If fire is carried out from Shiite villages in Lebanon, this is the operational plan: Very aggressive fire."
He said Israel would use what he called the "Dahiya doctrine," a reference to the southern suburbs of Beirut where Hezbollah's headquarters are located. During the 2006 war, Israel destroyed dozens of buildings in Dahiya, including the offices of Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.
"What happened in the Dahiya quarter in Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired upon. We will apply disproportionate force upon it and cause great damage and destruction there," he said. "From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases."
In the interview, Eizenkot warned Syria against launching missiles into Israel. "Everything I said about Hezbollah, regarding punishment and severe harm, is all the more true for a country that has assets." He also indicated Syria could be punished for Hezbollah's actions.
Syria is a key backer of Hezbollah. Despite the recent resumption of indirect peace talks with Syria, Israel believes the Damascus regime continues to help rearm Hezbollah.
There was no immediate response from Hezbollah or Syria. But Nasrallah has warned in recent weeks that Hezbollah's response to a future Israeli incursion will be more fierce than what took place in 2006.
The 2006 war broke out when Hezbollah fighters burst across Israel's northern border, killing three Israeli soldiers and capturing two others. More than 1,000 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 159 Israelis died in the fighting. The war ended with a U.N.-brokered truce, and in July, the bodies of the two abducted soldiers — believed to have died during or shortly after their capture — were returned to Israel in a swap with Hezbollah.
The cease-fire has largely held, but Israel believes Hezbollah has replenished its arms supplies with Iranian and Syrian help.
Eizenkot said "dozens of rockets" are concealed in homes in Shiite villages throughout southern Lebanon. He said Hezbollah has sent fighters to Iran for training, and Iranian military trainers have been spotted in Lebanon.
"You can see today the walls behind which the rockets are concealed, ready for launching. At the moment of truth, the walls will be knocked down — and the rockets fired."
While Hezbollah has beefed up its capabilities, Eizenkot stressed that Israel has also greatly improved its training, readiness and intelligence since the war.
"I have great force relative to what existed then. I have no excuse for not achieving the objectives that will be assigned to me," he said.
Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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