Israel plans to capture territory if attacked from North
Friday, November 29, 2002
TEL AVIV — Israel's military is preparing for an offensive war against its Arab adversaries that would involve the capture of territory to ensure victory in any future regional conflict.
Israeli military planners have been discussing and drafting strategies in response for a regional war that could take place in 2003. They said such a war is likely to begin with a Hizbullah rocket barrage from southern Lebanon in an attack supported by Syria, Middle East Newsline reported.
"In the next war, we will be required to be decisive in a way that will include the capture of territory," Maj. Gen. Yiftah Ron-Tal, head of the Ground Forces Command, said. "So, we must preserve our offensive capability in the Israeli Defense Forces. Our maneuvers must take place outside the border of Israel and the ingredients of a decisive victory will be the ground forces. The burden will be placed on them."
Later, military sources said Ron-Tal's assessment was that of the military's General Staff. They said the military has drafted scenarios and battle plans for the prospect that Syria would use Hizbullah to launch a massive rocket attack against northern Israel prior or during any U.S.-led war against Iraq.
Such a war, military officials said, would be fought differently from the more than two-year-old campaign against Palestinian insurgents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They said Israeli aircraft, armor and troops would move rapidly to establish the battlefield outside of the Jewish state and capture territory required to achieve victory.
Ron-Tal discussed Israel's war strategy during a conference on the "Land Army in the 21st Century" on Wednesday at Bar-Ilan University. Leading experts and former defense officials discussed Israel's need to restructure its ground forces to ensure that they absorb the latest military technology.
[On Thursday, Hizbullah gunners fired 357 mm anti-aircraft shells toward Israeli aircraft in both the eastern and western sectors. Nobody was injured but officials expressed concern that Hizbullah would soon begin to use its new anti-aircraft missiles obtained from Iran.]
The general said the ground forces, despite the increasing capability of the air force and navy, will be responsible for victory in any future Israeli war as well as deterring the nation's adversaries. He said Arab neighbors, particularly Syria, will use any peace arrangement to launch a massive armament program similar to that of Egypt over the last 20 years.
"In many areas, Egypt is not less capable than we are," Ron-Tal said.
"We will be in a nuclear Middle East and Israel will have second and third circle threats that will threaten its existence."
The reference was to nonconventional, including nuclear programs, by such countries as Iran, Libya and Syria. The general said the Palestinians will continue to attack Israel even if a wall is built along the West Bank.
Ron-Tal said the military could defeat the Palestinians in the next few months. He said that so far the military has scored impressive achievements against Palestinian insurgents, but they have responded with painful counter-attacks against civilians in Israeli cities.
"If we can remove from the Palestinian consciousness that terror can achieve their strategic goals, then I would call this a decisive victory," the general said. "This can be achieved within months. It [the current insurgency war] is not something that fate has been imposed upon us. This is one of the main tthings that we need to do today."
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