Living in on Kibbutz Grofit in southern Israel at the time, I happened to become close with the family of then-Major General Moshe Ya'alon, at the time the chief of Israeli military intelligence (he would later be appointed chief of staff, to be replaced last year by the current chief of staff, Dan Halutz). The general would come home most Friday nights to spend some time with his family before departing the following day for headquarters. During these visits we spoke repeatedly about political and military matters, and in the midst of the 1996 bombing campaign I asked him why, despite Israel's stated goal of crippling Hezbollah, the IDF avoided hitting its top leadership, going so far as to strike Hezbollah offices on the fourth floor of a Beirut high-rise at 7 AM, when the Israelis knew the offices would be empty. He replied that on previous occasions when Israel had struck serious blows at Hezbollah- a 1992 aerial attack on a training camp in which dozens of guerillas were killed, and the 1994 assassination of commander Sheikh Abbas Musawi by Israeli helicopters- Hezbollah had retaliated with strikes against Israeli and Jewish targets abroad. These were the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing over thirty, and the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish community centre, in which 85 were killed. Both these bombings, the general told me, were assisted by the Iranian secret services. Escalation against Hezbollah, Israel had learned, could carry a terrible price.
Thus evolved the Israeli strategy of holding the Lebanese government- and by extension, Syria- accountable for Hezbollah attacks by bombing Lebanese civilian infrastructure, a form of collective punishment on a grand scale that forces all Lebanese to suffer for Hezbollah's actions.
Even when Israel has devoted considerable military resources to hunting Hezbollah operatives by air throughout Lebanon, as it eventually did in 1996, it has not succeeded in substantially reducing the number of rockets fired across the border. The guerillas and their rockets are too numerous, too mobile, and too difficult to detect from the air. Meanwhile, the cost of an Israeli ground assault would be prohibitive, as illustrated last week at the outset of the fighting when an Israeli tank in pursuit of Hezbollah attackers struck a mine, killing five Israeli soldiers. For all its technological sophistication, then, Israel's hands are tied.
Israel's Air and Artillery War Against Hezbollah: Something Old, Something New, Everything Hopeless, Daniel Douek, 23 juillet 2006