`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
tvPoldark, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing