Go in, Kill Some Terrorists, Get out

On the Fifth Anniversary of the Second Lebanon War: Chapter 15 in Fire on Our Forces by Amir Rapaport: "How we failed ourselves in the Second Lebanon War." A minute by minute account of how the war broke out. A special IsraelDefense project
Go in, Kill Some Terrorists, Get out

Read the first chapter

 

On Monday, July 24, at eight o'clock in the evening, Dan Halutz flew north in his Blackhawk helicopter. From the air he could see Haifa under bombardment. The empty roads said it all. On the thirteenth day of the war Haifa looked like a city experiencing a massive electric blackout. The chief of staff leaned his head against the chopper window and shut his eyes. Nearly two weeks had passed since the war broke out; he was now accustomed to catching forty winks - half hour intervals here and there.

 

He was exhausted. The late July evenings in the north were chilly. Halutz stepped off the helicopter with his staff officers and the land forces commander, Major General Benny Gantz, and immediately got into the military truck waiting for them. A solitary vehicle in a country at war. Halutz recalled that his father had been a soldier in the legendary 7th Brigade during the War of Independence and had taken part in the capture of Kibbutz Malkiya. Now the Golani Brigade's forward CP (command post) was at Kibbutz Malkiya, and the chief of staff who was born three months after the founding of the state, was on his way there.

Waiting for Halutz and his entourage in the CP were the Golani Brigade commander, Colonel Tamir Yedai, and his staff officers. They too were dead tired. Halutz sat down next to Yedai, the youngest brigade commander in the IDF, thirty-six years old and already a brigade commander for four years. A promising officer and a soccer freak. Halutz and Yedai sat shoulder to shoulder and stared at the black dots being transmitted on the plasma screens overhead. Golani units had just completed their first day in the area overlooking Bint Jbil, and Halutz and Yedai studied the mass of pictures being broadcast from the ground.

Afterwards the chief of staff said that "Modern wars are wars of symbols. Bint Jbil was a symbol. Nasrallah made his cobwebs speech in Bint Jbil. These are symbols that they [Nasrallah and Hezbollah] defended and still defend, and it's our job to show them that we can strike them there." Halutz's tough talking, however, reflected cultural boorishness. Israel may have seen Bint Jbil as a symbol, but Hezbollah regarded it as just another town in South Lebanon where guerilla tactics were employed: dig in, let the enemy enter, and ambush him from concealed positions. Hit him hard and make him pay.

Was the "effect" of capturing the town where Nasrallah delivered his famous cobwebs speech likely to have diminished the firing of Katyusha rockets into Israel? Certainly not! But the cobwebs speech of May 2000 had infuriated the GHQ. The generals were itching to expunge the humiliation. The IDF's "cobwebs complex" was so profound that the propaganda caricatures dropped by Israeli aircraft over South Lebanon depicted Nasrallah trying to fight the cobwebs only to discover they were an iron wall. The "dream" was to bring the prime minister and defense minister to the spot where Nasrallah had made his speech and let them deliver their own victory oration. The plan never materialized. Bint Jbil, three kilometers from the Israeli border, again became a symbol - this time of failure.

The first person to raise the idea of capturing Bint Jbil was Major General Benny Gantz, on the fourth day of the war. "Nasrallah's victory speech was in Bint Jbil," the commander of the land forces told his listeners. Gantz's previous roles included OC Northern Command and chief of the Lebanon Liaison Unit during the pullout from the security strip. "This is a Shiite stronghold that has to be dismantled," he said. "I'd consider a limited ground operation in the area that included [Hezbollah positions in Bint Jbil] . . . I'd call in a TV camera crew to record the move and its results. In other words, have it tell the whole story." On another occasion Gantz employed a musical metaphor to describe the operation: "I propose a 'piano attack' that focuses on one particular area at a time where we go in and get the job done. Each time another area. Never the same place." Gantz likened the operation to a pianist's fingers gliding up and down a keyboard. Gantz's idea stood directly opposed to the principle of the concentrated, ongoing effort. Nevertheless, he stressed that "the campaign has to be very spread out. I think that we should concentrate on ground raids. Then cross back to our side, and not stay in Lebanon. Each time a focused effort somewhere else. When you withdraw at night, have the guys come out singing."

Gantz's idea was to use nighttime sing-alongs to refute Hezbollah's expected charges that it had driven the Israeli troops out of Lebanon, and demonstrate that the IDF had no intention of maintaining a prolonged presence in the country.

Adam first heard about the occupation of Bint Jbil when the chief of staff and his entourage visited the Northern Command CP on July 18. He was against the idea for a very limited ground operation that the Kirya in Tel Aviv had cooked up, but held his tongue. "I think that Bint Jbil is a reasonable place for a raid, but not for full-scale occupation," he told his guests. "We could capture some of the dominating areas, kill some Arabs, and regain control of Bint Jbil from the direction of Marun a-Ras . . . Marun a-Ras is located nine hundred and fifty-one meters above sea level; Bint Jbil six hundred meters. To control Bint Jbil you don’t have to be inside the town. Forty thousand people live there in twelve thousand houses. It would be like trying to capture Holon [a Tel Aviv suburb]," he warned.

Gadi Eisencott wasn’t keen on the idea of a Bint Jbil operation. "I'm not sure that a town the size of Bint Jbil is right for a raid," he said. "It'd be better to hit some of the smaller villages in Hezbollah's operational heart. That would also have a symbolic effect. Places like Yatar, Kafra, or Zabkin. Our advantage would be in making a devastating surprise where Hezbollah wasn’t expecting us. A single battalion would be enough for a raid in such a village. This is why I suggest a different model, not the Bint Jbil one." But when the IDF began drawing up plans for the occupation of Bint Jbil, Eisencott said that "what's important is the symbol. The ability to carry out an operation and break the myth."

At this stage of the war an unbridgeable gap had developed between the Northern Command in Zefat and the GHQ in Tel Aviv. In addition to hard feelings, there were basic differences of approach. Eyal Ben-Reuven, deputy OC Northern Command, had prepared the command's plan, but, given Halutz's wholesale rejection of the two plans ("High Waters" and "State Protector") which were drawn up before the war and envisioned the capture of areas in South Lebanon in order to push back the danger of Katyushas, he began drafting alternative, "lite" versions of the plans. The limited plans included brigade-size operations only a few kilometers from the border, at objectives that could serve as bridgeheads for a deeper penetration in the direction of the Litani River, if such a move was decided and if sufficient reserves mobilized.

On Friday, July 21, the northern border was at last divided between two divisions.

According to Ben-Reuven's plan, two brigade-size raids would be carried out early the following week in the eastern sector of South Lebanon, the 162nd Division's responsibility. The Golani Brigade, that rushed north straight from combat operations in the Gaza Strip, was ordered to raid an area in the vicinity of the village of Taibe, southwest of the Israeli village of Metula, in order to establish a corridor that would enable the IDF to cross the Seluki River at a later date and from there to penetrate deeper into South Lebanon.

The Nachal Brigade would attack the village of Kafr al-Hiyam more to the northeast, thus creating an additional "springboard." Simultaneously in the western sector, given to Brigadier General Gal Hirsch's 91st Division, the 7th Armored Brigade and the Paratroop Brigade would take part in the first stage of the raid on Bint Jbil. The Northern Command purposely planned to "gain control" of the villages rather than "occupy" them.

The difference between the terms was not just one of semantics. "Gaining control" meant capturing the dominating positions around the villages and controlling what went on inside them by means of long-range fire. On the other hand, "occupation" meant the capture and retention of key objectives in the heart of the village by the troops' physical presence: planting the flag. This the Northern Command opposed, claiming that it wouldn’t advance war aims by a whit nor reduce the Katyusha fire. Occupation would only jeopardize the troops.

GHQ wanted a divisional operation on a specific target, and Bint Jbil as the first target, but realized that Northern Command had assigned each brigade to a different sector. "We're talking about divisions and they're talking about brigades," one of the generals said to

Halutz during a situation assessment the morning hours of Friday, July 21. "We have to get up there [to the Northern Command] and bang on the table." Halutz agreed to go north. He and senior GHQ officers (Gantz, Kaplinsky, Eisencott, and others) walked into the discussion room in the Northern Command's "pit" at around midnight, between Friday and Saturday. All of the divisional commanders taking part in combat operations and the command's senior officers were present, waiting for the top brass. In the course of the meeting Erez Zukerman surprised everyone when he requested permission to speak and confessed to having acted behind the back of another division commander. He regretted what he had done and hoped that it might contribute to clearing the turbid air. His admission seems to have aroused only curiosity. Few of the participants knew anything about the behind-the-scenes intrigues over the difficult battle near Avivim and Marun a-Ras a few days earlier, but Gal Hirsch realized that he was the divisional commander who had been backstabbed. Nevertheless, he held his tongue.

Zukerman's mea culpa was of minor significance given the main purpose of the meeting: approving the Northern Command's raiding plan and giving it the "go ahead" sign. This is what the Northern Command hoped for, but its chances for approval were nil. The hours slipped into the second watch and the discussion began to heat up. Eisencott was very much opposed to sending Golani into Taibe and the paratroopers into Bint Jbil, each brigade separately.

"Hezbollah is ready and waiting [from us] in Taibe and Bint Jbil," he told the command's officers. He pointed to a map and turned to Halutz: "Chief of Staff, I think that there are better places to go to, but if the command has already decided on Bint Jbil, then our effort has to be made with substantial force." He faced the command's officers and said: "We can begin with the air force and artillery, and then attack with two divisions."

Deputy Chief of Staff Kaplinsky also opposed the Northern Command's plan. "Make a concentrated attack. Don’t scatter your efforts now," he admonished. "Putting a few troops in Bint Jbil and a few in Taibe won't gain you anything." He proposed having the Golani Brigade join the paratroopers' operation in Bint Jbil. Adam told the deputy chief of staff that he had already informed Golani it would be raiding Taibe. Kaplinsky shot back, "Don’t make an issue out it. Tell them to go to Bint Jbil. They still have twenty-four hours to ready themselves. It'll be like a 'binoculars exercise' for them [an exercise in the Officers Training Course where candidates are given a few hours to prepare a raid on a target]."

The division commanders at the meeting were dumfounded by the argument that raged between the Northern Command and GHQ. Whichever viewpoint triumphed, they realized that the whole aim of the campaign was to commit troops to combat in order to kill an unspecified number of Hezbollah fighters, and then return to base in Israel.

When Halutz stepped up to the board with the maps and battle diagrams, the room became absolutely silent. The chief of staff began his presentation by looking directly at the OC Northern Command and saying: "Listen carefully Udi Adam, we're through talking. See this line north of Bint Jbil?" And Halutz pointed on the map to a ridge codenamed 'Sylvester.' "You'll make a concentrated divisional effort here. This is where you'll reach." The chief of staff pounded his fist into his open palm demonstrating with the smashing blow the level of strength he expected from Adam. "That's it, end of discussion," he concluded and exited the room without another word.

Before the eyes of his staff, Udi Adam's leadership had been veritably crushed and his plans annulled. His frustration was very apparent. On the other hand, Gal Hirsch seemed quite happy. According to the chief of staff, the Golani Brigade would be transferred from the 162nd Division to his division, and together with the Paratroop Brigade and 7th Armored Brigade tanks, he would be making the concentrated effort in Bint Jbil, which was exactly what he wanted.

When the senior GHQ officers flew off into the darkness in their helicopters, Guy Tzur the commander of 162nd Division phoned Yedai, the Golani Brigade commander. Earlier that evening, they had spent hours reviewing the plan for Golani's raid on Taibe. "Sorry bro." Brigade Tzur said, feeling the need to apologize using the slang of enlisted men. "I know this is going to drive you crazy but they're transferring your brigade to the 91st for an operation at Bint Jbil."

Surprised, Yedai waited for the new order from Northern Command, but when no instructions arrived through formal channels, he proceeded with his brigade's original plan for Taibe, even though it had been cancelled the night before. When GHQ in Tel Aviv found out about this from talks with the brigade commander, Kaplinsky and Eisencott suspected that Northern Command wasn’t carrying out orders.

At noon Eisencott reported to Halutz that "Golani officers are still making observations of Taibe." Only after Halutz personally intervened, did the Golani Brigade receive the order for mission change. On Saturday afternoon, following the change in plans, Yedai met with Hirsch, as Golani was now annexed to Hirsch's sector. Hirsch didn’t conceal his desire to capture Bint Jbil, not just "gain control" of its surrounding area. "The Center of Awareness" that operated in his division's headquarters had codenamed operations in the town's area "Iron Web," a paraphrase of Nasrallah's famous speech. If Hirsch had known that spider web is one of the strongest filaments in nature, tougher than iron thread of comparable thickness, he might have chosen another name.

Hirsch quickly ordered the brigades to "capture" Bint Jbil. An order that was almost immediately followed by new instructions from Northern Command to "first encircle" the town and afterwards "take it over," which forced him to coordinate these caprices into a new plan. The slightest change in an order's wording meant that the commanders at lower levels had to revise their plans. Some of the officers wondered aloud whether the "brass upstairs" knew what the hell they wanted.

The Bint Jbil operation was originally scheduled to commence in the night between Monday and Tuesday, but was advanced by a day because it was felt that a positive momentum could be created now that the Paratroop Brigade had gained control of Marun a-Ras over the weekend. In addition, there was concern that with the American secretary of state's visit to the region the following week, the IDF would probably be ordered to halt operations before making any significant progress on the ground.

The paratroopers assigned three battalions to Bint Jbil: the 101st and the 890th (that was scheduled to arrive from its duty in the West Bank, in Hebron, thirty-six kilometers south of Jerusalem), and the reconnaissance battalion that had fought so admirably at Marun a-Ras. Golani allotted the Fifty-first Battalion and the brigade's recon battalion, whose commander, Yoav Yarom, lost his leg under the knee in a mine blast in Lebanon in 1994, and the Egoz unit. Egoz's commander, Lieutenant Colonel Mordechai Cahana, insisted on going on the mission. After the losses in Marun a-Ras he feared a crisis brewing. "You're not going to leave us out of this one," he said Yedai, his brigade commander. "The only way we can shake off the last incident is by going into Lebanon again. We're coming in with you."

The men of the Fifty-first had been dreaming of such a mission since the day they reported to the army induction center outside Tel Aviv. They were coming from Gaza where they had been engaged for the last two weeks in "Summer Rains," the IDF's operational response to the abduction of Gilad Shalit. But the Golani grunts didn’t consider the Palestinians as "real" a challenge as Hezbollah. When the Fifty-first's commander, Lieutenant Colonel Yaniv Asor, assembled his men on Saturday and announced that "tomorrow we're going into Lebanon," they were genuinely happy. That's how soldiers' minds work. The loud explosions in the background sharpened their sense of mission. At the time none of them gave a thought to the danger involved, they wanted only to defend their homes.

That evening the battalion went through some brief exercises: shooting at targets, breaking into houses, and lobbing grenades. "It's going to be dangerous up there," Asor told his men, who had only heard about Lebanon from stories. By ten they turned in for sleep. Inside the tents some of men munched on "Bamba" (a peanut-flavored snack), drank cola, and sang war songs. Fear sometimes brings out a sense of black humor; just as often, it paralyzes. The guys in C Company talked about death but were sure that they'd all make it back in one piece.

At seven, Sunday morning, they started getting their gear ready: maps, night vision equipment, weapons, food, and water. Around ten, Lieutenant Alex Shwartzman, the deputy company commander, came over. He called an inspection and checked their protective vests, quietly asking each soldier if it fits OK. His voice exuded calm and confidence. Shwartzman could not have known that the end of his life was fast approaching.

Later that morning, the ministers held another government meeting in Jerusalem. The head of MI (military intelligence), Major General Amos Yadlin, continued to present an optimistic picture. "Hezbollah strongholds have been broken," he said. "We've regained deterrence. Hezbollah is withdrawing from the border. The organization's strategic layout has been damaged." Kaplinsky, the IDF's highest ranking officer at the meeting, said to the ministers: "I want to stress that we're not talking about a ground operation or the occupation of South Lebanon. This is part of an action to clear away the strongholds where Hezbollah has built up its infrastructure. Don’t forget that the distances involved are [only] six hundred to a thousand meters from the border."

Regarding the follow up, Kaplinsky informed the ministers: "Our intention is to conduct brigade level operations at this stage, nothing higher. Go in, destroy the infrastructure, and get out." What the deputy chief of staff had just stated was not, to say the least, completely accurate. He himself had been strongly in favor of annexing Golani to the effort of the paratroopers and 7th Brigade in Bint Jbil so that a triple-brigade operation could commence that night. Roni Bar-On, the minister of the interior, wanted to know what was really happening. "Are we going to enter villages?" he asked pointedly. Kaplinsky's answer: "We haven’t entered any villages yet and we don’t intend to enter any villages." But at that very moment Israeli forces were busy making final preparations for the Bint Jbil operation. The contradiction may be explained by the fact that the troops were not supposed to enter the village in the first stage, but only "gain control" of its environs. At any rate, Kaplinsky didn’t put all the cards on the table.

Neither did Defense Minister Amir Peretz make a special effort to speak accurately: "We didn’t ask approval for a ground operation, we didn’t ask approval for capturing territory in Lebanon, we didn’t ask for special approval that went beyond the mandate for air support operations and border redefinition." However, as opposed to what he said, the operation that was brewing in Bint Jbil and that the ministers hadn’t a clue about was definitely outside the definition of "border redefinition." Its concept was something entirely different.

Concealing information illustrates to what extent the government is an irrelevant body. The IDF was not afraid that the ministers would veto the Bint Jbil operation if it was shown to them. The atmosphere around the government table was militant. Haim Ramon even proposed "shaving away" villages that were being used as Katyusha launch sites. The army's main fear was that the ministers would immediately leak everything that had been discussed behind closed doors.

While the government was bickering over protocol, Generals Adam and Hirsch came to Golani's "Shraga" Base near Nahariya (north of Haifa) for approval of the final plan. "We have to prepare for capturing Bint Jbil as if it were the capture of Berlin," Adam exclaimed. His real concern was that his subordinates would not obey the order (just as GHQ was worried that the Northern Command didn’t "give a damn" about its instructions). "I know you guys," he said to Yedai. "Your men aren’t going to capture anything. You're going to position yourselves in points that dominate the vicinity and nothing beyond that." Later he used a felt tip marker to show exactly where the forces would be positioned. "The operation is designed to last forty-eight hours . . ." Then he looked straight at Hirsch, like a teacher lecturing a cantankerous pupil: "This means that you too are limited. We go in quickly, kill some terrorists, and get out."

At the same time as this briefing was taking place, the soldiers were busy with their own matters. Human memory is tied to colors and odors. As evening approached Shwartzman handed out peaches to the men of C Company who were waiting close to the border. After the battle this is what they would remember sharpest. Death would take its toll in the ranks, and the juicy sweetness of the peaches would be their last reminder of what had once been. An entire company wanted to emerge victorious and didn’t consider the price.

They painted their faces with camouflage sticks, divided into platoons and formed into ranks: sappers platoon, the vanguard, and the patrol. Close to nine o'clock they set out. C Company took its first steps on Lebanese soil, silently. The adrenalin raced in the blood. They had several hours of forced march ahead of them until they reached the outskirts of Bint Jbil and could settle in.

The paratroopers made their final preparations under tremendous pressure. Time was of paramount importance. The brigade commander, Colonel Mordechai along with the 101st and recon battalions organized for the Bint Jbil operation as a follow-up to the fighting at Marun a-Ras. The 890th Battalion had managed to go through a "quickie" training exercise on Mt. Carmel on its way north from Hebron. After the exercise, however, the buses got delayed at the Dalton Heights in the Galilee, just as Golani was crossing the border.

The divisional plan for taking control of Bint Jbil envisioned the Golani Brigade reaching it from the east and the paratroopers from the west so as to create a "pincer movement." Israeli armor would provide the two brigades with covering fire. It was accepted as a given that the town's northern slope would remain open to Hezbollah movement.

At dawn on Monday, Golani troops positioned themselves in the outskirts of Bint Jbil. Their arrival was accompanied by a heavy artillery barrage and air force bombing. From this point on, the story of the operation will be related through those who lost their lives at Bint Jbil, the men of Captain Alon Hakima's C Company. The sand in the company's hourglass was running out. The soldiers set themselves up in three houses, breaking into them without firing a shot. The squat stone houses were classical Arab construction. Many were empty. Morale was high. The troops were tired. The long, tension-ridden, forced march had worn them out. They got ready for guard duty. Those not on watch immediately fell asleep.

Yedai, the brigade commander, hadn’t budged from the CP in Kibbutz Malkiya. Instead of a tent, he was housed in a two-story structure in the center of the kibbutz that had been converted for military operations. The sweat, exhaustion, tension, intrigues, frustration and rare moments of satisfaction collected on the ground floor in the space of a few dozen square meters. Shortly after the brigade embarked on its mission, Yedai discovered to his dismay that he was out of radio contact with his forces because of a technical breakdown. This meant he often had to leave the CP in Malkiya and drive to the war room in Camp Avivim in order to speak with the commanders in the field via "mountain rose" - an encoded phone. Avivim was the only place with reception. The communication glitch lasted for twenty-four hours. Yedai began to regret his decision not to go in with his men.

If one believes that the approaching catastrophe in Bint Jbil could have been avoided, then there were signs of a major foul-up right at the beginning when a dotz (IDF acronym for friendly fire shootout) occurred. Just before noon on Monday, during an exchange of fire with Hezbollah on the outskirts of Bint Jbil, an Egoz officer, Lieutenant Ariel Gino, was wounded by a sniper fire. Golani infantrymen advanced to the house in order to evacuate him. Had Yedai, the brigade commander, been in continuous contact with all of the forces, the blunder might have been prevented. Instead, one Golani unit from its higher position mistakenly opened fired on another Golani unit. An IAF aircraft released a missile and five soldiers were hit. The number of wounded rose to six, and they had to be evacuated from houses at the edge of the town.

Then things started going from bad to worse. A "tankbulance" (a tank for evacuating wounded troops from a fighting arena) was sent for the wounded. Another tank, a Merkava Mark-IV from the Fifty-second Battalion of the 401st Iron Tracks Brigade, was dispatched as support. Merkava IVs had been purposely selected for this task because of their superior ability in negotiating rough, off-road terrain where mines and IEDs could be concealed.

The first tank never reached the wounded men. In the outskirts of the town it was struck by an anti-tank missile. The platoon commander, Lieutenant Lotan Slavan, was killed. Two crew members were lightly wounded. The battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Guy Kabili, immediately set out in the direction of the damaged tank. Inside his Merkava IV were no less than seven men, including an artillery fire direction officer. Kabili had to make a critical decision: risk danger and take the shortest and fastest route to the wounded, via the road, or proceed more cautiously on a roundabout boulder-strewn path between. He chose the first.

It was a brave decision, but it came at heavy price. Kabili's tank detonated an IED weighing a hundred kilo and rolled over. The number of wounded steadily increased. Kabili himself was moderately hurt. Now his deputy, Major Eli Michalson, had to deal with the complicated task of extricating them. As Michalson was approaching the upside down tank he caught sight of three Sager missiles heading straight toward the crushed mass of steel. If this hadn’t been the IDF's most advanced tank, few of its crewmembers would have survived both the huge explosive device and missile attack. Michalson called for an armor-plated D-9 bulldozer to build a dirt mound around the disabled tank as protection against further missiles, but the bulldozer, too, received a missile hit and had to retreat. Missiles were also fired at tankists who were trying on foot to get to their commander and the wounded men. The wounded were finally removed under cover of scores of smoke shells fired by IDF artillery. Kobi Smileg of Rechovot succumbed to his wounds.

Kabili ended the war in a hospital and was promoted. His replacement was the previous battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Tzachi Segev. As Michalson was leaving the battlefield his cell phone rang. It was the DJ for his wedding that was scheduled to take place in two months. The DJ wanted to know which song Michalson wanted played after the canopy. "Not now," Michalson said. All he wanted was to get his boys back safe and sound to the Israeli side of the border.

The pincer movement at Bint Jbil never materialized. The paratroopers left Marun a-Ras too late. The delay of the 890th Battalion from Hebron had been critical. When the soldiers entered Lebanon and began the forced march to the areas dominating Bint Jbil, it was already light out. Some of the paratroopers lost their way. Golani's deputy brigade commander found them trailing his force.

The brigade commander, Hagai Mordechai, advanced his units to the point they were supposed to have reached that night, and then received a radio message that Udi Adam had unexpectedly arrived at the brigade's forward headquarters at the kibbutz and was about to stop the advance. Indeed, a few minutes later the 91st Division was ordered to halt the paratroopers' movement. "No advancing in daylight," Adam decided. This was his conclusion from the fight at Marun a-Ras where Egoz soldiers had been killed in daylight. Gal Hirsch was dumbfounded. He contacted Adam on his encoded cell phone and yelled, "This is a major error! Who ever heard of an army not fighting in daytime?" His vocal remonstrations were to no avail. The paratroopers renewed their advance only after dark.

Since Bint Jbil was not encircled from the north - a move that had not been planned - Hezbollah was free to pour in reinforcements from its special units. The organization's commanders probably learned that they had to beef up their units in the town from watching Israel TV! The Israeli Broadcasting Authority provided reliable and detailed data of the IDF's plans and even transmitted live coverage from the Lebanese border of Israeli forces preparing to enter the fighting zone. The media supplied the public with information that was far more accurate than the reports the Israeli government ministers received in closed-door meetings.

Finally, instead of a two-flank encirclement of Bint Jbil there was only Golani's one flank, on the east. Brigade officers used a plastic cup to show what happened. Applying pressing on both sides of the cup with two hands, crushes it. A smack with one hand on one side only moves it. That explained it all. This was how the Golani Brigade repulsed Hezbollah after the failed pincer movement. But the plastic cup remained intact.

 

 Read the first chapter

Firendly Fire, How We Failed Ourselves in the Second Lebanon War. Amir Rapaport. Sifriya Ma'ariv (2007). Editor: Yoav Keren. Graphics: Yoram Ne'eman & Yael Reshef. 382 pages.

 

 

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Photos:
- The 101st Paratrooper Battalion moves out of Bint Jbil
- Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and Brigadier General Gal Hirsch, commander of Division 91

- IDF forces leave Bint Jbil.

- A wounded IDF soldier is medevaced to Rambam Hospital in Haifa.