Israel wreaks vengeance on Hizbollah camp

For hours, clouds of black smoke hung over the hot, brown mountain ridges. Delayed-action bombs went on exploding long after the raid. But the ambulances bouncing through the dust down the old smugglers' trail past Amshki, with their heavily bearded drivers and Hizbollah men clinging to the back doors, told their own story.

Hizbollah guerrillas careered up the same mud and stone track on Japanese motor cycles, the same cycles they use in their suicidal assaults on the Israeli army in southern Lebanon. But this time, it was the Israelis who had struck, and the Hizbollah were stunned.

In a Hizbollah office in Baalbek, I watched one of their officials reading the initial list of dead down the telephone line to his headquarters in Beirut. 'Mohamed Fadlallah from the Bekaa, Hussein from Beirut, four of the Bourji brothers from Beirut . . .' In all, he read out 19 names. By noon, the Hizbollah acknowledged 26. By nightfall, it seemed Israel had killed almost 50 Hizbollah recruits, some as young as 12, in its night raid on the guerrilla camp at Kawcab. Hizbollah members locked the gates of the Imam Khomeini hospital in Baalbek as shocked relatives crowded outside. The dead overwhelmed Baalbek's mortuaries.

It was not just the scale of their losses that astounded the Hizbollah, but the fact that the Israelis must have known that the guerrillas had packed their camp at Kawcab with 121 young men who were, yesterday morning, to have 'graduated' as recruits from the training camp - some of them no doubt destined to fight Israeli occupation troops in southern Lebanon. Hizbollah must have been betrayed, just as Mustafa Dirani, the Shia militia leader associated with them, was betrayed two weeks ago when Israeli troops landed by helicopter, kidnapped him from his home in the Bekaa Valley and flew off to Israel after being guided to their target.

'Two weeks ago, they made us cry,' a Hizbollah man called Hani said in a cramped office in Baalbek. 'Now they have made us cry again.' But the Hizbollah were not crying, just trying to come to terms with the most devastating blow struck against them by Israel. Their first response was a warning by their secretary-general, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, that 'Israel is not alone in having a long arm'. The second response was a salvo of Katyusha rockets, seven of which landed near the Israeli town of Nahariya without causing injuries.

Baalbek closed its shops in preparation for today's mass funeral while Syrian troops in the Bekaa manned anti-aircraft guns on the old Roman roads. Several of these guns - and Lebanese artillery batteries to the west - opened fire at 4am yesterday when Israeli Phantom jets, along with two rocket-firing helicopters, swept in from the Mediterranean, flew low over the Lebanon mountain range, over the Roman temples at Baalbek and bombed the training camp three miles from the Syrian border. In Bsharre, 25 miles away, people were shaken from their beds by the explosions.

Was this, as the Israelis claimed later, a raid without any special timing, carried out merely - in the words of the Israeli government spokesman - because 'any time is a good time to attack the Hizbollah'? Coming less than two weeks after the kidnapping of Mr Dirani - who for months in 1986 held the captured Israeli pilot Ron Arad - it can only embarrass Syria, under whose protection the Hizbollah function in Lebanon and whose 20,000 troops in the country are supposed to guarantee the Lebanese from attack.

President Hafez al-Assad of Syria, however, believes in patience under provocation, and there were no signs yesterday of Syrian retaliation. No Syrian troops were in the immediate area of the attack. At one point in the morning, a Syrian major telephoned the Hizbollah in Baalbek to ask where the training camp was. Kawcab was not on his map. His confusion was understandable; the scruffy village of shacks and scrapyards does not appear on any map in Lebanon. But it obviously appeared on maps in Israel.

The question now is: how 'long' is the Hizbollah's arm?

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: LGV Driver - Category C or C+E

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national Company that manu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000

£13000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Assistant

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Maintenance Assistant is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?