Reporter's Notebook: Israel's Plans

60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon has covered the Middle East for more than 20 years.



Despite the dramatic pictures we are seeing on our television screens, the Israeli command insists it is not going full throttle in Lebanon and does not intend to.

The objective, Israeli officers say, is to weaken Hezbollah on the ground in south Lebanon, and to pave the way for the government in Beirut to send the Lebanese army down to take its place.

Some of the pictures we do see illustrate the Israeli strategy, the bombing of the Beirut airport, the destruction of bridges. The Israelis want to cut off the supply routes to Syria. There is no Ho Chi Minh trail in this part of the world and if the air routes and the roads are closed, the Israelis say they will be able to isolate Hezbollah and destroy as many rocket launchers, garrisons and fighting units as possible.

The Israeli command is speaking of an operation that will last somewhere between one and two weeks. The government of Lebanon, the United Nations and other powers may call for a cease fire, but the Israelis will not accept a cease fire, officers say, until it has achieved its military objectives.

The Israelis say they hope that they will be able to do this without calling up the reserves and without a major incursion into Lebanon by ground forces. This could well depend on how successful Hezbollah proves to be in coming days with its rocket attacks against northern Israel.

Despite the hundreds which have rained down so far -- including missiles that hit the port city of Haifa -- Israeli officers insist it could have been a lot worse and they characterize the casualties and the damage so far as tolerable.

Patience will be required, one officer told me tonight, to achieve a situation where Israel no longer has to face Hezbollah across its northern border.
  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.

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