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BBC Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen
"Israel now has to work out whether it will launch further reprisals"
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Friday, 11 February, 2000, 16:45 GMT
Analysis: Dilemma facing Israeli army

Israeli soldier at Lebanon border An Israeli soldier on duty at the Lebanese border

By defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus

The Israeli military is facing mounting problems with tactics amid morale as the army in Lebanon continues to take increasing numbers of casualties.

And no Israeli soldier wants to be the last man to die in Lebanon.

The Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has already announced that the Israeli military will withdraw from its self-declared security zone in the south of the country this coming July.

A Lebanese anti-aircraft gun A Lebanese anti-aircraft gun ready for action
Inevitably such an announcement presents Israeli commanders with a fundamental morale problem.

Maintaining fighting spirit is no easy matter if the young conscript soldiers know that they are metaphorically walking backwards with a well-armed enemy snapping at their ankles.

Indeed, the rising Israeli casualty rate has demonstrated the inadequacy of the current tactics being employed there.

The policy of concentrating Israeli troops in a small number of outposts was introduced specifically to reduce casualties.

This was in marked contrast to the earlier more aggressive approach of active patrolling intended to ambush and engage Hezbollah guerilla fighters before they were able to mount their own attacks on Israeli positions.

Conflicting advice

But no strategy can compensate for a seemingly wide-ranging view among many ordinary soldiers that a tour of duty in Lebanon is simply to be survived and that in due course the army will withdraw.

Whatever happens over the next few months it is going to be very hard for the Israeli prime minister to go back on his withdrawal commitment.

Professional military men offer conflicting advice - some stressing the benefits of withdrawal, others arguing that Israel is still better defended from beyond its own frontier.

But the latter argument seems to have been lost. It is now probably only a matter of time before Israel pulls out.

And some political figures even argue that the withdrawal should begin sooner rather than later.

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See also:
11 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Israel quits Lebanon crisis talks
08 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Protests grow over Israeli raids
08 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Analysis: Gloves off in Lebanon
08 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Picture gallery: Israel's raids on Lebanon
15 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Analysis: The Lebanon factor
02 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Hezbollah: 'Peace with Israel impossible'

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