JERUSALEM – Israel declared Tuesday it was ready to fight Hezbollah guerrillas for several more weeks, raising doubts about international efforts to broker an immediate cease-fire in the fighting that has killed more than 260 people and displaced 500,000. The military said early Wednesday it sent some troops into southern
Lebanon in search of tunnels and weapons.
Despite the diplomatic activity, Israel is in no hurry to end its offensive, which it sees as a unique opportunity to crush Hezbollah. The Islamic militants appear to have steadily built up their military strength after Israel pulled its troops out of southern Lebanon in 2000.
It is a chance to do serious damage to Hezbollah’s capabilities, but one must remember the Iran- and Syria-backed group created that very “opportunity” by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers, not to mention the Katyusha rockets that Hezbollah frequently lobbed over the border before the present phase of the conflict began.
At daybreak Wednesday, a small number of Israeli troops were operating just across the border inside southern Lebanon, looking for tunnels and weapons, the Israeli military said without providing any more details.
The incursion came a day after Israel indicated that it might send large numbers of ground troops into the southern Lebanon, but Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman denied Wednesday’s operation was part of any such operation.
“What is going on at the moment is a number of Israeli ground troops very near to the border on the Lebanese side, trying to destroy some Hezbollah outposts,” he told CNN.
“This is an operation which is very measured, very local,” he said. “This is no way an invasion of Lebanon. This is no way the beginning of any kind of occupation of Lebanon.”