FOR four weeks Hezbollah's
fighters have defied the might of the Israeli military.
A guerrilla force
that was supposed to be crushed in days has prevented Israeli troops capturing
more than a handful of villages in southern Lebanon, killed more than 100
Israeli soldiers and civilians and is still raining missiles on northern Israel.
In the eyes of Arabs and Muslims Hezbollah has already "won" the month-long war
simply because it has not been defeated by the Middle East's most powerful army.
Hezbollah has made good use of the six years since Israel withdrew its troops
from southern Lebanon. With help from Syria and Iran it has amassed large
arsenals, laid traps, built an intricate system of bunkers and tunnels, studied
Israeli military tactics and developed a well-trained force of highly motivated
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."
Here are the keys to Hezbollah's success:
Small teams of trained fighters have used advanced missiles to knock out the
formidable Merkava tank, and older versions to punch through the walls of houses
sheltering Israeli soldiers.
Most are Saggers, an outdated Soviet wire-guided missile first used in the
1960s. In the late 1990s Hezbollah began firing more accurate wire-guided TOW
anti-tank missiles. In this war, Hezbollah has for the first time used the
Russian Metis-M, which has a range of a mile and can be fitted with an
anti-armour warhead or a fuel-air explosive warhead to use against troops or
bunkers. Hezbollah may also be using the laser-guided Kornet-E anti-tank
missile, which has a range of about 3.5 miles.
Individual Hezbollah fighters carry the shoulder-fired RPG29, a more advanced
version of the RPG7 beloved of guerrilla groups since the 1960s. It has a
dual-purpose warhead. "The first punches through the armour and the second is
aimed at the personnel," Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese general, said.
Hezbollah's ability to knock out Merkava tanks has frustrated the traditional
Israeli military doctrine of rapid armoured thrusts deep into enemy territory.
Hezbollah is thought to have no more than 1,000 elite frontline fighters,
with perhaps 3,000 in reserve. They will be drawn from the villages where they
are fighting, using their intimate knowledge of the local terrain. They
communicate by walkie-talkie, constantly changing the frequency and using a code
that draws on their personal knowledge of each other and the surrounding area.
Some reportedly used souped-up off-road motorbikes to launch hit-and-run attacks
then escape along obscure tracks. Hezbollah also has drones to spy on Israeli
From 2000, Hezbollah developed a secret military infrastructure in southern
Lebanon, consisting of tunnels, expanded natural caves and underground bunkers
where weapons were stored and fighters could live. Much of this construction
work was carried out at night in remote stretches of the border.
Israeli troops have talked of finding bunkers housing command-and-control
centres and advanced eavesdropping and surveillance equipment and monitoring
cameras. The Israelis speak of battle-hardened Hezbollah fighters constantly
popping up from unknown hiding places, firing, and then vanishing again.
Israeli officers regard Hezbollah fighters, many trained in Iran, as highly
motivated but not careless of their lives in the manner of Palestinian militants
often intent on glory through death. Mr Goksel said: "Hezbollah is not afraid of
the Israelis. After 18 years fighting Israeli troops, they see them as
vulnerable human beings who make mistakes and are afraid like anyone else."
Hezbollah marksmen equipped with high-powered rifles lie undercover for days
at a time, picking off Israeli soldiers when the opportunity arises. Their
marksmanship is impressive. In July 2004 a Hezbollah sniper shot dead two
Israeli soldiers from a range of 500 yards.
Israeli commanders claim to have destroyed many of Hezbollah¡¯s long-range
rocket launchers, including the 600mm Zelzal that can reach Tel Aviv. But the
standard 122mm Katyushas can be fired more easily by mobile teams without the
need for launchers visible to spotter drones or surveillance planes. These
rockets are generally fired from multibarrelled launchers on the back of
flat-bed trucks, but they can also be fired singly, even from a simple mounting
of crossed sticks that is all but invisible to Israeli drones when hidden inside
an olive grove. Last week Israeli commandos staged a pre-dawn raid on an
apartment block in Tyre housing Hezbollah militants who had been firing
long-range rockets into Israel. Two Hezbollah militants were killed, but rockets
were being fired from the same location hours later.
These killed more Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon in the 1990s than any
other weapon, and the technology is now much more sophisticated. Early versions
consisted of home-made claymore-style explosive charges that spray hundreds of
ball bearings, and were detonated by a command wire or remote radio control.
Hezbollah bombs today include shaped-charge warheads that concentrate the
blast in a single direction to punch through the walls of armoured vehicles.
They are detonated by infra-red beam.
Military observers believe that Hezbollah long ago planted huge mines under
all the roads crossing the border. Israeli tanks have therefore avoided the
Instead of stockpiling its munitions in a handful of arsenals, Hezbollah
dispersed them in private homes, garages, basements, bunkers and caves, giving
ready access to small Hezbollah units. The group is also thought to have
night-vision goggles and a stash of Israeli military fatigues for
Courtesy of www.timesonline.co.uk