Army Chief Terms Israeli Role Minimal in Clash with Hezbollah

Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Dan Shomron minimized the IDF’s role Wednesday in the latest clash with Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon.

Speaking at a Foreign Press Association luncheon here, Shomron also said IDF policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been much less harsh than those employed by Western powers trying to suppress similar uprisings.

The chief of staff said there was no truth to foreign media reports that from 2,000 to 4,000 Israeli troops were involved in a new incursion into Lebanon.

He said the IDF gave only “limited” support to its allied South Lebanon Army, which undertook a search mission Wednesday to oust Hezbollah units from Lueza village, just north of the southern Lebanon security zone.

He said the pro-Iranian Shiite extremist group, whose name means “Party of God,” took over Lueza. The SLA moved to clear them out and had “limited” IDF artillery and tank fire from inside the security zone, Shomron said.

He admitted, however, that at one point Israeli air force jets precision-bombed three terrorist targets in the village.

But IDF participation was a far cry from the massive air, ground and naval assaults it undertook two weeks ago against Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorists in southern Lebanon. Three IDF soldiers were killed and 17 wounded in that operation. There were no Israeli casualties in Wednesday’s support action.

Shomron noted that Hezbollah is now engaged in a violent struggle with the mainstream Shiite militia, Amal, for control of Moslem West Beirut. The Israelis favor Amal, which has no equivalent to Hezbollah’s fanatical terrorist band, known as Islamic Jihad (Holy War)

HARSHER STEPS MORE EFFECTIVE

In his address to the foreign correspondents, Shomron said it would have been possible to restore order in the West Bank and Gaza Strip much more quickly had Israel resorted to measures taken by Western powers.

“Other countries, Western and others, which have experienced in the past this type of violent struggle have acted very decisively and with very harsh, oppressive measures, in order to reduce their level,” Shomron said.

“The experience of those countries proves that harsh measures do, indeed, in the short term, reduce the level of violence. But in this type of activity, one sows the seeds of disaster in the long term,” the chief of staff said.

He cited as examples the French experiences in Algeria and New Caledonia, and the American and French experiences in Vietnam. Those countries are not the West Bank, “which is in our own backyard, and even inside our own house,” the general said.

The IDF adopted less severe measures also, he said, because “we hope to find partners for negotiations among the local leadership in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Shomron said the IDF had the feeling that the foreign press coverage of the West Bank uprising has been unfair, because it has concentrated on the scenes and acts of violence, neglecting the far larger areas where quiet prevailed.

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