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What would you do?
By Peter Klein


August 10, 2006

In the fall of 2003, I was a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, deployed on the Lebanese border. I learned more about Hezbollah than I ever wanted to know. I learned that when the Israeli Defense Forces had hastily withdrawn from Lebanon in 2000, many of the armored positions were abandoned, not destroyed, and Hezbollah had taken them up. I learned the grisly details of Hezbollah attacks - on soldiers, families, schoolchildren. I learned about missile attacks, kidnappings, and roadside bombs.

Before our unit got up north, we were warned that the first week was the most critical. Hezbollah knows everything, we were told; they know when a new unit moves in, and often strike to intimidate the unit or to exploit the unit's unfamiliarity with the area.

On the fifth day of our being responsible for part of the border along the base of Mount Dov, Hezbollah fired a Sager anti-tank missile at our base. They simply fired the missile and took cover in the bunkers that the Israeli Defense Forces had previously left. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

We saw training videos of Hezbollah. They are professional soldiers and they were intimidating. They practiced moving in formation at night; we could see some of their positions with binoculars. Some were only a mile from us, but we couldn't do anything; they were on the other side of an international border, which Israel did not want to violate. We were told that we could cross the border only in the event of a kidnapping.

So we waited. We spent our whole time up north waiting for Hezbollah to break through the fence into Israel or to attack us. Because of our rules of engagement, we knew that if there was combat, Hezbollah would fire the first shot.

It became obvious that they could kill us at any time. They could fire a rocket-propelled grenade from their side of the border and that would be the end of us.

Eyal Banin was one of my company's squad commanders. The other week he was doing reserve duty along the northern border when he became the victim of a Hezbollah first strike. Eyal and two other soldiers were killed. Two more were kidnapped.

At the same time, Hezbollah began firing Katyusha missiles into Israel. Hezbollah had fired missiles into Kiryat Shmoneh many times, but somehow, as long as it was "just Kiryat Shmoneh," we hadn't responded. It was no longer just Kiryat Shmoneh; it was the whole northern border. There was speculation that Hezbollah now had longer-range missiles.

While I was eating dinner at my girlfriend's, we had a discussion that must have been taking place in tens of thousands of homes in Israel. "Can they hit Haifa? Would they be crazy enough to hit Haifa? If they hit Haifa, we'll have to really retaliate."

A few hours later, our questions were answered. They had hit Haifa, and were almost halfway to Tel Aviv.

They had also hit numerous other cities for the first time. They struck the biblical city of Tiberias, and the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Afula. The Israeli Rear Command warned residents of Tel Aviv to prepare for a possible missile attack; Israeli intelligence indicated that Hezbollah might be capable of striking Israel's largest city.

Hezbollah and Hamas are constantly expanding their missile range. This means that the portion of Israel unthreatened by terrorist missiles is constantly shrinking. The terrorists are closing in on us: A month ago, the nearest missile hit was 50 miles in the south and more than 100 miles in the north; now it is 40 miles in the south and 60 miles in the north.

These terrorist organizations are governmental. Hezbollah is a large, democratically elected party in Lebanon, with 14 seats in parliament and two ministers. Hamas is the democratically elected majority party in the Palestinian Authority.

My heart goes out to the innocent Lebanese and Palestinians who have been killed in the Israeli responses to their governments' attacks on Israel. But what would you do?

Peter Klein
Herziya, Northern Israel

About: Peter Klein is an Israeli-American living in Israel.



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