A raid by the terrorist organization Hezbollah early this morning from southern Lebanon killed three Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two. The operation appears to have been planned for some time, and quite aside from the casualties and the material damage, this raid, which, based on these early reports, appears to have caught Israeli Northern Command flat-footed: is a great embarrassment to the Israel Defense Forces.
The Israelis have called this attack an “act of war” which it most certainly is; they told the Lebanese government they are responsible, which they most certainly are (the attack was from their country); that the missing soldiers must be found and produced, and finally, that if necessary they will see to it that the “Lebanese civilian infrastructures…regress 20, or even 50 years” according to Haaretz.
Both Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post report that the Israelis are calling up reservists. This is possibly for freeing-up intervention forces for Lebanon or Gaza, although the Israelis probably need infantry forces for clear-and-secure type operations in Gaza or southern Lebanon, looking for Corporal Shalit (missing in Gaza since 25 June), and the other missing soldiers; or hunting Qassam launch-sites and stockpiles.
In addition to the expected air strikes, some sort of ground incursion in Lebanon is evidently under way: the New York Times reports that the Israelis have crossed the frontier with some unspecified “armored force.”
I think the Israeli move into Lebanon might be larger than expected, possibly a repeat of Operation Litani from 1978. Air strikes that would do the advertised damage to Lebanese civilian infrastructures are likely to be politically counterproductive; attract too much hostile foreign notice (this would mean serious air operations over Beirut, where the press is); and would not hurt Hezbollah in the slightest.
Still, the Israelis simply cannot tolerate Hezbollah turning southern Lebanon into a platform for such attacks on Israel, and they need to re-establish their reputation for holding clear military ascendancy over groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Also, the Israelis need to rattle the Syrians, who are the key to controlling Hamas. A blow to Hezbollah is also a strike at Iranian interests – Hezbollah is, to a considerable degree, an Iranian proxy. Clearly, a sharp response to the border raid is needed. Extensive ground operations, of a punitive nature along the Lebanese border are thus likely, at least as far as the Litani River.