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Hizballah: Human Shields and Information Warfare

On the heels of an Israeli report of Hizballah's use of human shields, the Hizballah coup d'etat continues in Beirut. Lebanese army commander General Michel Suleiman warned that the violence could escalate and adversely affect the army's ability to hold itself together as a mixture of Shi'a, Sunni, Druze and Christian Lebanese soldiers. Gen. Suleiman said, "The absence of political solutions, along with the recurring security incidents, particularly those with a sectarian tinge, drain the army's resources and weaken its neutrality. This weakness will make the army unable to control the situation in all areas of Lebanon." This, of course, is surely one of Hizballah's objectives should it eventually pursue a strategy of escalation as expected. The areas the Lebanese army would not be able to control would be the Hizballah-controlled territory south of the Litani River and the Bekaa Valley on the eastern border with Syria.

Hizballah's current tactic utilizes the Shi'a civilian population in confrontation just as it did over the summer in its war with Israel.

Israel's Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center will be releasing a study into Hizballah's use of Lebanese civilians as human shields and Israeli civilians as targets, plainly titled Hezbollah's Use of Lebanese Civilians as Human Shields.

There was no shortage of footage and news coverage of damaged Lebanese towns and cities following Israeli bombing and artillery strikes or rolling tallies of Lebanese civilian casualties updated seemingly by the minute - often by Hizballah-supplied numbers. The vast majority of the coverage was exclusively after the incident, lacking the context (and seemingly concern) of the deeply-embedded nature of Hizballah's rocket batteries within the civilian population centers.

This is precisely what the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center seeks to reveal and explain with its report, and it begins by explaining Hizballah's three "main deployments" during the summer war, which can also be expected in the fast approaching re-engagement.

Offensive : Before the outbreak of the second Lebanon war, Hezbollah stockpiled an arsenal of more than 20,000 rockets of various ranges, including long-range rockets capable of reaching both the north and center of Israel . They were primarily concentrated in south Lebanon and for the most part kept in designated storehouses located in civilian structures (private residences and public institutions) in many towns and villages. That enabled Hezbollah to wage a long-term campaign against Israel and to inflict extensive damage on its civilian population. Hezbollah aspired to create a balance of deterrence with Israel and exploit it to carry out attacks and encourage terrorism in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories, and at the same time to continue building up its military power in Lebanon .

Defensive : Hezbollah's defensive deployment is based on its military infrastructure south of the Litani River and in the hills around Nabatiya. Its objective was to enable Hezbollah to conduct guerilla attacks against the IDF with advanced anti-tank missiles, engineering forces and well-trained and well-equipped infantry. Its defensive infrastructure is based on a broad deployment within the Shi'ite towns and villages south of the Litani River and the intention to wage determined urban warfare (a concept well-illustrated by operational plans captured by the IDF during the war). To complement its military infrastructure within populated areas, Hezbollah also constructed such an infrastructure in non-populated areas, but its function is secondary in its overall defensive strategy.

Logistic : Hezbollah's logistic deployment consists of numerous storehouses of weapons scattered throughout Lebanon , particularly south Lebanon , which enable Hezbollah to engage in protracted warfare against Israel . To that end Hezbollah instituted a broad logistic system in south Lebanon based on hundreds of private residences and public institutions (including mosques ). It also makes extensive use of Lebanon 's road system to transport weapons from Syria to its forces in south Lebanon (as happened during the war), and of Lebanon 's communications and mass media capabilities, among them its own media.

The ITIC, close to the IDF with offices in the Defense Ministry, will be publicly releasing the four-part Hizballah report on its website in stages. The four parts are:
Part One : Introduction. The establishment of Hezbollah's military infrastructure within the civilian population of Lebanon .

Part Two : Documentation. Proof of the location of Hezbollah's military infrastructure and operational activities carried out from within the civilian population

Part Three : Population centers in Israel as targets for Hezbollah rocket fire.

Part Four : Text and visual appendices on CD.
As is customary for ITIC, the video, photographic and captured document information within Part Four will likely be interspersed throughout a three-part web release.

As incredibly important as the report is, it is a disappointment that it comes so late and so long after the engagement. While the ITIC explains that there was not enough time during the engagement to focus on getting the information and context to the public in this manner, it should be made an absolute priority - by organizations such as this as well as the governments confronted and engaged by terrorists globally - to ensure that work such as this can be produced near real-time and within the given news cycle.

Terrorist organizations like Hizballah and al-Qaeda and their state sponsors such as Iran and Syria make information warfare a top priority. They are increasingly effective at often employing the Western media apparatus as their tools of dissemination.

That the ITIC report Hezbollah's Use of Lebanese Civilians as Human Shields is being completed and released four months after the ceasefire in Lebanon was enacted is through no fault of their own. It is our own failure for not individually supporting such efforts and not demanding the same effective and timely engagement from our governments.

As with all aspects of this broad and truly global war, it is simply a matter of will.

Ceding the information initiative to the terrorist enemy in a long, generational war is profoundly dangerous, wholly inexcusable and easily rectified. Governments and their respective citizenries should muster the determination to ensure that enough support and resources are provided to achieve this.