IDF recommends quick pullout from south Lebanon
The Israel Defense Forces are recommending that once the cease-fire takes effect, Israel should begin withdrawing its forces from Lebanon relatively quickly.
Sunday, at least five IDF soldiers were killed in the fighting and more than 30 were wounded, 10 of them seriously. In addition, despite the IDF's advance, Hezbollah fired some 250 rockets on Israel, the war's heaviest one-day total to date. The strikes killed one person and wounded dozens.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and the chiefs of the defense establishment met Sunday night to discuss the cease-fire, and Olmert ordered the army to begin abiding by it as of 2 A.M. this morning, other than in cases of self-defense.
They also agreed that the IDF will begin withdrawing some of its forces from Lebanon immediately, but will remain in various positions that offer control over surrounding areas until these positions can be handed over to the Lebanese Army and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
The IDF's recommendation is that if the cease-fire holds, its forces are to be withdrawn from Lebanon relatively quickly.
The intention is for the forces to move back to a line north of the border with Lebanon within about 10 days, or as soon as the Lebanese Army is ready to begin entering South Lebanon. This means that the IDF will not be conducting searches for Hezbollah fighters or arms caches in the areas that it has captured over the last few days, which the army defined as "the heart of the operational campaign" against Hezbollah.
Once the Lebanese Army is fully deployed in the south, together with a beefed-up UNIFIL force, the IDF troops will withdraw completely.
As of last night, the IDF had begun removing the first reservist units out of Lebanon. Over the coming days, the remaining forces will be gradually reduced, and in some cases, reservists will be replaced with regular army units.
IDF sources admitted that in the time remaining until the cease-fire takes effect, the army will only manage to reach the Litani River - which was the goal of the current offensive - in a few places.
Late last night, the General Staff drafted new rules of engagement for the forces that will remain in Lebanon once the cease-fire goes into effect. Army sources told Haaretz that the new rules will allow soldiers to open fire at any Hezbollah fighter who endangers them. If necessary - meaning if troops are endangered, if wounded men need to be evacuated or if a pinned-down force needs to be rescued - commanders will also be able to call in helicopter fire, fighter jets and artillery.
IDF to halt advance
As soon as the cease-fire takes effect, the IDF will order its ground forces to halt their advance. In addition, Israel is considering lifting its naval and air blockade of Lebanon. If it does so, it will also cease firing on trucks crossing the border from Syria into Lebanon, which may enable Hezbollah to acquire a new arms supply - particularly since large weapons shipments from both Iran and Syria are known to be waiting on the Syrian side of the border.
In addition, the IDF will not conduct bombing raids in Beirut or other places deep in Lebanon's interior.
The IDF believes that the cease-fire might well lead Hezbollah to stop its rocket fire on Israel, though Military Intelligence also suggested that the organization might try to fire long-range rockets at the Tel Aviv area in the final hours before the cease-fire takes effect, in order to "have the last word."
However, Hezbollah is considered likely to continue attacking the ground forces that are slated to remain inside Lebanon until the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL take over.
As a result, defense establishment officials are doubtful that the cease-fire will hold.
Sunday, the IDF foiled a Hezbollah attempt to send two drones over Israel. It is not yet known whether the drones were carrying explosives.