JERUSALEM- Israel’s army will call up thousands of reserve soldiers and press its offensive against Hizbollah in Lebanon until the guerrillas are crippled or the order is given to stop, the military chief said on Thursday.
Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz told a news confer
ence that the damage already inflicted on Hizbollah during the Jewish state’s 16-day-old offensive was “huge”.
He said up to three divisions of reserve soldiers would be ordered to report for duty. That could amount to around 15,000 soldiers, or 5,000 troops per division.
Israel has been steadily calling up reserves but until now not in such large numbers, indicating operations could be expanded, even though the army has ruled out a major invasion of southern Lebanon for now.
“This front is ongoing and it will continue to be until we receive other orders or we reach the goals we set ourselves,” Halutz told a news conference.
“The strategic damage to Hizbollah is huge.”
Halutz said part of Hizbollah’s weapons capabilities had been “harmed significantly”, although he did not give details.
Hizbollah was still able to fire rockets into Israel despite the offensive, he noted. Around 70 missiles were fired into northern Israel on Thursday, wounding two dozen people.
Israel is massing forces on its northern border. Fierce battles with Hizbollah have been raging inside southern Lebanon with heavy casualties on both sides.
Halutz and Defence Minister Amir Peretz, who attended the same briefing, both restated the government’s position that the army had no intention of attacking Syria, a patron of Hizbollah.