`Operation news control' is ushered in

It was crude stuff. Through the heavily fortified border post at Metulla marched 30 schoolboys, living in the Israeli occupation zone in south Lebanon, who waved the Israeli flag with its blue Star of David and the Lebanese flag with its green cedar tree.

"They will be taken from here by buses to the centre of the country for a couple of days of what may be called rest and recreation," said Colonel Shaul Camisa, the head of civil assistance in Israel's liaison unit for Lebanon. He said the boys represented "all the various ethnic groups and religious denominations in Lebanon".

The children themselves cheerfully admitted that they came from a more select group, not entirely typical of the 180,000 people in the occupation zone. They said they were the children of security officials or of members of the South Lebanon Army, the Israeli-controlled militia. They have twice before been on such trips to Israel.

Israel is eager to show that it is doing something for the 400,000 Lebanese displaced by its bombardment. In addition to the jaunt for the children, Colonel Camisa said people ordered by Israel to leave their villages nine miles away on the other side of the Israeli zone were free to seek refuge within the Israeli lines.

In the wake of the 1982/4 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which left 12,000 Lebanese dead, and Operation Accountability in 1993 which killed some 129 Lebanese, Israel is eager to show that it is concerned about civilian casualties. Spokesmen stress that no village is attacked until it is certain its inhabitants have fled.

David Kreislman, an official of the government press office, said Israel has limited interest in letting the foreign media go to Israeli military positions. He explained frankly that Israel wanted to avoid television news stories in which film of an Israeli heavy artillery piece firing a shell was "juxtaposed" with a shot from Lebanon of an ambulance taking people to hospital.

In many respects the Israeli handling of the media during Operation Grapes of Wrath is similar to that of the US in the Gulf war. In both cases public relations were given high priority. Briefings by senior generals were frequent. Video films, taken by attacking aircraft, of guided missiles and bombs striking their targets were shown immediately on television.

At Marjayoun, the Israeli military headquarters three miles into Lebanon, it is less easy to see sure signs of Israeli military success. As we crossed the border at Metulla yesterday there was the thump of a Katyusha rocket slamming into a hillside. The previous day Hizbollah fired 70 rockets, the highest number since the operation began.

On the flat roof of the Marjayoun headquarters Colonel Amal Assad, a senior Israeli commander, said that the operation was succeeding and in future, he added somewhat ambiguously, "there will be no Katyushas in the same quantity".

He said that in the town of Nabatiyeh, the tops of whose houses could be seen across the ridge line, there was "almost nobody left". He stressed that "if there are any houses destroyed they are terrorist houses. We haven't damaged any civilian houses."

It may be that Israel is achieving its military goals, but it has not prevented the Katyushas landing in Galilee, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, is pledged to stop them without a ground offensive.

Colonel Assad, by origin a Druze, said that there had been no ground fighting between Hizbollah and the Israeli army or the SLA militia since the operation started. This could be because Hizbollah is hard hit but, if this is the case, why are so many Katyushas falling on the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona? A more likely explanation is that the guerrillas are biding their time.

Meanwhile Mr Peres continues to show confidence by saying he wants a written agreement with Syria, guaranteeing that Hizbollah will stop its Katyusha attacks, before he calls off the operation. Hizbollah has rejected a US initiative linking a ceasefire to long term talks about a full Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
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
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
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: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there