w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m

Last update - 08:39 24/07/2006

ANALYSIS: Hezbollah cell based in Tyre wreaking havoc on Haifa

By Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz Correspondent

We can say without a doubt that the war of attrition against the city of Haifa and its residents is a tale of two cities: Tyre in Lebanon versus Haifa in Israel. The Hezbollah unit deployed in Tyre and its environs has been bombarding Haifa with Syrian rockets and upgraded Iranian-made Katyushas. If this unit is not destroyed, it will continue to target Haifa. As such, it is odd that the Israel Defense Forces ground operation that began Sunday was not immediately directed against the threat from Tyre.

In recent days, the air force has targetted Tyre, but this was not sufficient. The fact is that on Sunday dozens of rockets were fired from the area of Tyre toward Haifa, causing casualties. It is clear that the center of Hezbollah's campaign of attrition is Haifa, and most of the launches take place from Tyre and its environs. Therefore, at this time, this target is more important than Beirut and the Shi'ite quarter of Dahiya, and clearly more important than the little villages in southern Lebanon's central front. Without an immediate destruction of the rockets in the area of Tyre, the war of attrition against Haifa - the third largest city in Israel - will not end.

In the front lines against Israel in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has deployed two units. The first, Nasser, involves 500 men who hold positions and outposts between the villages in the central to the eastern zones of the front. It is mostly equipped with short-range rockets. This unit is responsible for most of the rockets fired against central and eastern Galilee. Most of the rockets land in fields, but there have been strikes against Safed, Meron, Nazareth and others. The second unit is deployed in the area of Tyre, and is equiped with longer-range rockets. This is where the Syrian-made 220mm rockets with warheads of several dozen kilograms are based.

Israeli intelligence was the first among similar organizations to discover that in addition to Iran, Syria also arms Hezbollah with rockets. Even recently, the Syrians have assisted Hezbollah in transferring 220mm rockets into Lebanon. In addition to these rockets, the Hezbollah unit in Tyre also fires upgraded 122mm Katyusha rockets from Iran. Their range was increased from about 22 kilometers to 35 km, and the first rocket to hit Haifa, at Stella Maris, was one of these Iranian upgrades. If pressure is placed on Hezbollah forces in Tyre, they will pull their main, long-range rockets further back so that they can continue targetting Israeli towns.

Israel has also not succeeded in explaining to the world the problem stemming from Tyre and the blitz against Haifa originating there. International newspapers published a photograph of 82 Lebanese coffins on their front pages, and Hezbollah claimed that each coffin held the body of a Lebanese killed by Israel. This may be, but it also may be not. However, do the readers know where the rockets fired against Haifa are coming from?

In one known case, a bomb struck a basement and killed those inside. Later, it turned out that of the 32 casualties, mostly dead, 11 were armed Hezbollah militants. The basement served Hezbollah and civilians that sought cover. In the current fighting there is no alternative but to convince the citizens of the city to leave, and make it easy to do so. But it is unclear whether Hezbollah will allow the evacuation of civilians from Tyre.

This article can also be read at <http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/741811.html>