Israeli jets fly 106th raid over Lebanon

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ISRAEL yesterday launched its 106th air raid on Lebanon this year after yet another Hizbollah ambush of Israeli occupation troops inside southern Lebanon. The frequency of both the raids - the average of one airstrike every three days means that they now go largely unreported - and the increasing number of Hizbollah assaults, shows just how trapped the Israelis have become in southern Lebanon.

But the latest appeal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Lebanese army to disarm the Hizbollah is going to fail. Not only are the Lebanese in no mood to give Israeli troops an easy occupation of the south of their country by taking weapons away from the only resistance movement that is fighting Israeli forces; Lebanon's new president, former army commander General Emile Lahoud, stated quite specifically at his inauguration last week that an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon must take place at the same time as a withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

In all, 23 Israelis have so far been killed this year in the occupation zone in southern Lebanon. Mr Netanyahu's sudden return to Israel last week produced a flurry of statements from ministers, demanding that the Lebanese army protect the Israeli army from being attacked and threatening attacks on the Lebanese national electricity system if they do not.

This being a cynical as well as a bloody war - at least 60 Hizbollah members have also been killed - it is in Syria's interest to keep Israel bogged down in Lebanon. The only way Syria can put pressure on Israel to pull out of the Golan Heights is by making it bleed inside Lebanon. If there is no conflict, there will be no need for Israel to withdraw from Golan - or so goes the thinking in Damascus. The inescapable conclusion is that many more Israelis and Hizbollah members will be killed in southern Lebanon in the months to come.