News headlines in Beirut today highlighted the political bickering in Israel over the failure of the Nsariyyeh operation that shook Israel, and enhanced the argument over pulling out from Lebanon.
Trading accusations on who is responsible and what was the merit of staying in Lebanon, went beyond the public opinion to reach the cabinet itself, which yesterday held a stormy session. Doubts are now being raised in Israel about the methods used by the army and the intelligence, on the assumption that there were leaks that have helped the resistance to prepare itself to confront the commando unit and wipe it out.
The row in Israel is over how to go out of the vicious circles of human fatalities in south Lebanon. One opinion calls for an immediate unilateral withdrawal; another for a phased withdrawal; a third for withdrawal after negotiations with the Syrians; and a forth for asking the US to mediate and provide security guarantees.
Meanwhile, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed insistent on staying, but without suggesting a method to reduce the bill of keeping south Lebanon under occupation. On the other hand, Israel's government and opposition seemed to have breached the taboo of silence, as it is usual to wait until the seven customary days of mourning are over.
In sum total, it could be said that Israel's society, government and opposition were split over the issue of withdrawal from Lebanon.
Was it a double agent that tipped Hizbullah?
Lebanon's media today focused on the security and intelligence aspects that led to the recent Israeli failure in Lebanon. A leading daily reproduced the questions now being raised in Israel on the subject: Was it an ambush that has been well prepared in advance? Was it a leak of intelligence information? Was it due to tapping Israeli army communication networks and cellular phones? Or was it an information leakage by a double agent? These and similar questions led to the formation of a ministerial committees to investigate the reasons of the failure. The general tendency, however, is directed at accusing Hizbullah of knowing where and when the commando operation was going to take place.
One question raised in Beirut was why Israel have chosen Nsariyyeh as a target, while the latter is neither a frontline nor a head base for the resistance? Early speculations in Beirut said the target could have been an Amal Movement base in the area, or the residence of the Deputy Chief of the Islamic Shiite Higher Council Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan.
Israel itself did not believe this version, and ruled out the possibility of ever wanting to abduct a religious cleric who has nothing to do with armed resistance. On the other hand, an Amal Movement command office, might have been an easy target with a sounding media coverage, but an evidence to the contrary was that the operation was designed two weeks ago, and came one day after the Jerusalem bombing.
What remains is the version given by Hizbullah. It says the latter has leaked false information leading the Israeli intelligence to believe there was a target that could be easily abducted from a small village near the battleground. The information said the presumed target was a senior security official of the Party. It said the security official was made available to serve as a trap while the Israeli commando unit was advancing. The version went on to say that Hizbullah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah was personally handling what has been termed as "Al Abbas trap". The Israeli commando unit was thus led to walk to the trap where a huge explosive device was promptly detonated.
The version was supported by Israel's media reports, which said it is difficult to give up the feeling that Hizbullah was waiting for the commando force. "There was a leak, it was not an accidental ambush, and the catastrophe was the result of a fault committed by the intelligence".
The "Islamic Resistance" in a statement yesterday said its fighters found "in the confrontation area near Nsariyyeh new human shreds including the leg of one soldier".
An Islamic Resistance source speaking Saturday to reporters in Nabatieh also said that "subsequent to the August-9 Kfour operation, the resistance decided to deploy along the crossing points, fighting units equipped with highly explosive devices capable of inflicting great harm to the lower parts of the human body".
As to last Friday's operation, he said, "some attackers were wearing civilian clothes and sport shoes. Others used spectacle-like laser night vision binoculars, and carried weapons similar to the ones used by the Resistance, in addition to an American weapon and a number of bolted communication equipment".
He said the Israelis wanted to lay 7 anti-personnel roadside bombs, but "after the first resistance-laid bomb exploded, they gathered around the site of the second, which turned them into shreds. They were later attacked by the resistance fighters. One Israeli doctor was killed with bullets, and the bomb left non of them wounded. They were all killed twice".
As to coordination with Amal Movement, he said that Amal officials "called us an hour later to inquire about what was going on. We asked them not to approach the site in order to avoid falling under the fire of our fighters in the battle field."
An Israeli officer was killed yesterday in an attack launched by the "Islamic Resistance", the military wing of Hizbullah, against the Nabatieh-overlooking Israeli post of Dabshi.
An Israeli security source said Hizbullah's fighters launched the attack at dawn, killing 22-year-old infantry lieutenant Abraham Buk who died of serious injuries while on board a helicopter taking him to a hospital in Israel.
The Dabshi post, Lebanese security sources said, came at 6:15 a.m. under a mortar and a rocket-propelled-grenade attack by resistance fighters. Israeli artillery retaliated by shelling the sources of fire in the vicinities of Arabsalim, Kfarruman and Nabatieh. No immediate report on casualties was available.
Later in the evening, press reports said two Israeli warplanes flew at a medium altitude over Nabatieh and Iqlim Attufah, and were confronted with anti-aircraft artillery from Lebanese Army positions in the area.
News reports in Beirut also said that Israeli gunboats were observed moving along the coastal line extending from the Zahrani area to the Awwali Bridge north of Sidon. A state of alert was declared among the Lebanese army units and the resistance in anticipation of any surprise attack.
On another note, press reports said that it has been observed that role of the SLA has recently retracted in favor of the Israeli army's direct intervention.
The five-nation ceasefire Monitoring Group is due to meet today at Naqoura to discuss a complaint Lebanon has lodged against Israel. Meanwhile in Damascus, David Sullivan, the current head of the Group, met the Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa. A Syrian official spokesman said the head of the Syrian team at the ceasefire Monitoring Group Brigadier Adnan Balloul attended the meeting. The spokesman said discussions centered on the recent escalation in South Lebanon and Israel's gross violation of the April understanding. He said the meeting reaffirmed the necessity of sticking to the understanding as a mechanism aiming at protecting civilians.
Israel in a fax message today asked the International Red Cross Commission (ICRC) to mediate with Hizbullah to swap some Lebanese detainees in Israel for the shreds of soldiers recently killed during the Nsariyyeh operation.
The ICRC in turn conveyed the request to the parties concerned. Hizbullah's secretary general sheikh Hassan Nasrallah also confirmed receiving the request and said the Party is studying the issue, which, he estimated, would take a month. He however did not disclose who the mediator would be, nor the names of the detainees his party would demand releasing. He said there are contacts with other Lebanese parties having some shreds in order to coordinate their stand.
-Army commander General Emile Lahoud congratulated the Lebanese army soldiers who foiled the Israeli operation at Zahrani on Friday. He said, "this brave confrontation renews the soldiers' unfaltering believe in their fighting ideology which has specified to them that the enemy is Israel, and that it is their duty to fight it so long as it is occupying parts of south Lebanon and western Biqaa".
-Minister Walid Jumblat argued about what princess Diana has done to make her the princess of the people. He said the media has created Diana and made her a legend, while the media itself was the one which killed her. Jumblat said perhaps Diana has visited AIDS patients or joined the campaign against land mines, but she never visited Palestinian refugee camps, nor did she visit south Lebanon or stood for the Arab detainees in Israel. He argued about what Arabs and Orientals have to do with the British royal family whose crown is "decorated with the blood of the people". Jumblat said one wonders about the racism exercised by the west against the Muslims and the Arabs. He said the Queen of Britain did not even cede to sending a condolence word to the Fayed family who has contributed a lot Diana's fame.
-Patriarch Sfeir in his Sunday sermon said naturalization in Lebanon is dictated by confessional emotions instead of the national interest. He said what is really alarming is the controversy expressed by the officials every time a case of national magnitude is brought up.
-Jezzine MP Suleiman Kanaan quoted the US Ambassador Richard Jones as saying that there will be no naturalization of the Palestinians residing in Lebanon, nor would there be a displacement of the inhabitants of Jezzine. He also quoted the Ambassador Jones as saying that the American Administration is strongly supporting the return of those who have recently evacuated the area.
-Lebanese Nijmeh football team drew yesterday 0-0 at the Bourj Hammoud Stadium with Al Ittihad from Qatar in the first round of the Asian Cup. The second leg will be played next Friday in Qatar.
-AUB Alumni Club tennis beginner's tournament ended with Moroccan Jalal Shaffii as champion. The 7-day tournament was held under the auspices of the both, the International Union and the Lebanese Union.
-Nijmeh player Wael Nazha is recovering and will play for the team at the upcoming match after his physiotherapy treatment was over.
-Safaa's Nigerian midfield player Osman Saleh saved his team from defeat before the Homentmen after scoring an equal goal at the 85th minute of the match.
-Homentmen and Riyada wal Adab football teams equalled at a match played on Sunday at the Tripoli Stadium.
-Ikhaa Ahli-Aley won against Hikmeh at 4-1.
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