by Stan Goodenough - Jerusalem Newswire - July 21, 2006
As Israel prepared for the start of the Shabbat Friday, signs on the ground were that the IDF is preparing for a larger incursion into Lebanon, one that could possibly turn into an actual invasion of Israel’s northernmost neighbor.
At around the same time, after a relatively quiet morning in the northern part of the country, at least two waves of rockets smashed into Haifa, Acre, Nahariya, Rosh Pina and other Galilee communities, injuring19 people, two of them seriously.
Earlier Friday afternoon, the IDF announced it had issued emergency notices calling up 5,000 reservists from the country’s workforce.
Some troops are expected to go and join with those already engaging Hizb’allah terrorists on the ground. Others will reportedly relieve regular soldiers near the Gaza Strip and in Samaria and Judea, so that they can head for the north.
Journalists near the Israel-Lebanon border reported a buildup of Israeli armor in the area, with news networks broadcasting images of tank and APC columns lining roads near the frontier.
Israeli officials have repeatedly expressed reluctance to conduct a major ground offensive in Lebanon. Massive efforts to destroy the Hizb’allah’s rocket-launching capability from the air have not succeeded, however, and since Wednesday the IDF has been carrying out operations inside that territory.
Fears are being expressed that Hizb’allah wants to draw Israel in and kill as many Israeli soldiers as possible.
Nonetheless, results of a survey published in the Hebrew-language daily Ma’ariv Friday show that 90 percent of the Israeli public supports their government’s handling of the crisis thus far.
Reports out of Washington meanwhile indicate that diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict have slowed to a crawl.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to hold another meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan later on Friday, but commentators said there was no real sense of urgency to move in any decisive direction.
Suggestions being put forward are that either the Bush administration wants to give Israel an extended open window to achieve its goals against the Hizb’allah, or that it is nervous about trying to negotiate a ceasefire when the chance of successfully doing so is slim.
In a statement from Beirut Friday afternoon the Hizb’allah leadership rejected a call for a ceasefire made by Annan the day before.
European diplomats are apparently still trying to get a foothold in, with unconfirmed reports late Friday that British Minister for the Middle East Lord Levy and a German foreign ministry official were heading for the region.