Defense Update - News Analysis by David Eshel

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Summary of Israeli Air Force Strikes -12-21 July 2006

Updated: July 21, 2006:

Airpower, missiles and rockets are extensively used by all sides fighting the current Middle East, with Israel using its airpower, the Lebanese Hezbollah using its extensive rocket and missiles force and even the Palestinians in Gaza, continue to use their improvised Qassam rockets to pound Israel’s southern cities.

Some of the recent operations were listed at the official IAF website.

The Israeli Air Force flew over 2,000 combat sorties against some 1,000 targets since the beginning of the hostilities in the north. UAVs performed over 250 UAV sorties. It began its strikes on Lebanon with the destruction of roads and bridges and closure of all Lebanese airfields, closing the runways of the civilian and military airfields, in an attempt to prevent Iranian and Syrian weapons resupplies to the Hezbollah. Attacks were conducted on the ports, as well as coastal radar stations. As part of the isolation of the theater of operation, Israeli F-16Ds from 109th and 101st squadrons performed interdiction missions, targeting with smart weapons critical passes and vehicles moving along the Beirut - Damascus highway and Daher-al-Baidar passage, the routes linking Lebanon to the east. F-16s C/D from 105th (Scorpions) squadron conducted strikes against weapons storage facilities at Baal-Beck in Northern Lebanon, located in an area previously considered “secured” from Israeli attacks, as it resides within the coverage of Syrian air defense systems. Later, a team of AH-64D Longbow attack helicopters from 113 squadron (Hornets) set the fuel tanks of the Beirut international airport ablaze. Throughout the attacks, UAVs are monitoring the area for hours, providing persistent intelligence and battle-damage assessment to the Israeli air command. Two attacks were directed against Hezbollah headquarters, these were conducted by Israeli F-15Is of 69 “Hammers” squadron pounded Hezbollah headquarters located in an 11 floor building at the Al-Dahia, a southern suburb of Beirut.

Airpower is also used for psychological warfare operations (PSYOPS), by warning civilian population to clear the area preceding attacks, the Israelis are trying to reduce loss of civilian lives. Such activities dictated a slower operational tempo, which provided Hezbollah leaders ample time to take cover and prepare for the attacks. These operations resulted in the evacuation of by 60,000 civilians from 28 villages targeted by the Israelis as Hezbollah strongholds. However, given the ferocious nature of these attacks casualties are mounting on both sides. In parallel, the IAF is conducting persistent surveillance of South Lebanon, in an attempt to pre-empt rocket strikes. These tasks are extremely difficult due to the illusive nature of these mobile weapons, which have been pre-positioned in hidden storage facilities, waiting for this showdown. Hezbollah rockets were “embedded” inside civilian homes, hidden inside specially erected ground and underground levels. Examples to such concealments were secondary explosions experienced during IAF attacks of farmhouses, expplosions that are evident of the existence of explosives in these supposedly innocent locations. Some of these activities were monitored throughout the years by Israeli UAVs, and this intelligence provided important, pinpointed targeting for preemptive strikes.

After completing the "shaping of theater", resulting in part of the civilian population fleeing the area, Israeli strike fighters and combat helicopters began a systematic search and destroy operation, seeking rocket storage and launching sites, as well as hunting Hezbollah activists. As part of these activities the IAF is attacking vehicles suspected to be employed by Hezbollah weapon systems. Since these vehicles do not have distinct shapes or signature, the chances for mistakes are high. Nevertheless, civilian road mobility has been decimated dramatically since the beginning of the hostilities, due to IAF attacks against road facilities and gas stations. Furthermore, movement of civilian vehicles is gernerally from the targeted zones outside, while incoming traffic is becoming susceptible to potential Israeli attacks. The Israelis are warning the Lebanese not to move in trucks or pickup trucks in the South, as these vehicles will be targeted as Hezbollah transports.

According to the Lebanese newspaper daily Star, Israeli aircraft attacked two of the main bridges at the southern entrance of Beirut, Hadi Nasrallah and Sultan Ibrahim, close to the heavily guarded Iranian Embassy compound. Earlier attacks had set fire to two fuel depots at the Jiyye plant and state-run Electricity du Liban. Other attacks targeted high-voltage electricity lines in Tyre, damaging power plants in Zahrani, Zouk and Deir Ammar, causing complete blackout in Beirut. The power station at Jamhur, east of Beirut was attacked on the night of July 17th. Gas stations along the routes were also destroyed. Air raids also hit several mobile-phone relays across the country. Following the C-802 missile attack on the Israeli corvette, the Israeli Navy and Air Force attacked and destroyed all (3) coastal radar sites along the Lebanese coastline, to prevent repeated attacks. Another radar station at a-Nazariya was destroyed the following night. The Israelis temporarily suspended their attacks on the ports to enable evacuation of foreigners from Lebanon. The IAF also confirmed Hezbollah fired Very Short Range Air Defense (VSHORAD) missiles against IAF helicopters, but no damage was reported. On the night of the 17th, and the morning of July 18th, several bases of the Lebanese army around the city of Tyre were attacked. The IAF reduced the pace of attacks, and shifted most of the activity to southern Lebanon and the Bekaa, to enable safe evacuation of foreign citizens from Lebanon.

On 18th July the IAF launched 250 sorties, against 100 targets; 20 of them attacked overnight. Among the targets were a launch facility of another Zilzal long range missile, Hezbollah facilities near the city of Tyre and logistics facilities in the Bekaa valley. A first Zilzal was hit two days ago, as it was transported near beirut.

The following day the the IAF performed 200 sorties ove Lebanon, revisiting the Beirut international airport and El-Manar TV station. In southern Beirut and the Bekaa valley the IAF attacked suspected command and control facilities, storage facilities and rocket launchers. Overnight, the IAF attempted to strike the Hezbollah leadership, attacking five buildings where the Israelis suspected the enemy leaders are grouping. Despite the wide devastation caused by the attack, Hezbollah claimed that their leaders were unharmed. To prove their claim, Hassan Nassarallah the Hezbollah leader gave an interview to el-Jazeera TV network. Other sorties, targeted against road infrastructure aimed to disrupt transportation and ressuply to the South.

On July 20th IAF performed 150 sorties, attacking 100 targets (40 of them at night). Among the targets were command locations, Other targets attacked that day included five rocket launchers, a suspected Fajr-3 medium range missile launcher and suspected vehicles, three storage facilities and roads. During the night the IAF conducted intensive helicopters operations, in support of ground operations in South Lebanon. As part of these ioperations, the IAF lost one aircre member and suffered three wounded, as two AH-64As (peten) collided and crashed when flying over Israeli territory.

On Friday, July 21 the IAF continued to strike transport activity along the Beirut Damascus highway. According to the During Lebanese newspaper Daily Star, the IAF finally succeeded to topple the Mdeirij bridge, part of the main Beirut-Damascus highway, which was repeatedly attacked since the breaing of the hostilities, on July 12. According to the Lebanese source, the IAF also attackled targets in the Shouf mountains, the refugee camp at Nueimah and the sea port village Damour, south of Beirut. Other targets includes were directed at Hizbollah facilities in the city of Baal-Beck in the north and Tyre in the south.

These operations are conducted in parallel to the activities over the southern theater, the Gaza Strip, where Israeli ground, naval and air forces are targeting Palestinian improvised rocket launcher teams and terrorist activities in the Gaza strip. On Sunday, the IAF attacked, for the third time, a tunnel prepared by Palestinians for underground infiltration into Israel beneath the Israeli - Palestinian border. With the availability of more material, Defense Update will soon initiate a separate log, covering air and ground operations in Gaza.

The current conflict began three weeks ago, when Palestinians infiltrated through a similar tunnel, killing two soldiers and abducting a third soldier.

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