Israel's security Cabinet has approved a wider ground offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. Cabinet members agreed to send troops as far as 30 kilometers into Lebanon, to the Litani River. Israel also shook up its military command on Wednesday replacing a key general responsible for ground operations in Lebanon.
For the first time since the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Israel has replaced a top general during ongoing combat operations. The commander of the Israeli Defense Forces, Air Force General Dan Halutz has appointed his deputy, Major General Moshe Kaplinsky to lead ground operations in Lebanon, effectively replacing the head of the Northern Command, Major General Udi Adam, who has been criticized in the Israeli media for poor deployment of ground troops.
The action comes as Israeli ground troops appear to be increasingly bogged down in Lebanon, where Hezbollah militants have made effective use of sophisticated anti-tank missiles to inflict growing casualties on the Israelis.
Dozens of Hezbollah rockets also rained down on Northern Israel again Wednesday, but there were no immediate reports of injuries from the latest attacks. Since the conflict began, Israeli officials say more than 3,000 rockets have landed in northern Israel.
Brigadier General Yossi Kupperwasser, who until last month was Director of Analysis for Israeli military intelligence says beating Hezbollah will not be easy.
"Crushing Hezbollah is not like ordering a pizza," Kupperwasser says. "It takes time. What we face is like an infantry division (approx. 10,000 troops) with state-of-the-art weaponry, including night vision equipped rifles. It is like a well-equipped infantry division made up of several brigades deployed along our border and totally guided with planning from Iranian revolutionary guards who are inside Lebanon."
Israeli newspapers say Wednesday's military shake-up is a sign that Israel will expand its ground operations in Lebanon. Israel's Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, a proponent of expanding ground operations, say Hezbollah's continuing ability to launch rockets into Israel can only be stopped by sending large numbers of ground troops into Lebanon as far north as the Litani River, and perhaps even beyond that, to a distance of about 20 to 30 kilometers inside Lebanon.