Friday, April 13, 2007

Today in IDF History - April 11

1956 - First Mystere IV Fighter Jets Arrive in Israel

On 11 April 1956 twelve French Mystere IV Fighter Jets landed at the Hazor Air Force Base in Israel, the first of many such fighters to be purchsed from France. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, Finance Minister Levi Eshkol and Ministry of Defence Director General Shmon Peres were on the tarmac to greet the planes and pilots.

The Mystere IV would become Israel's airborne workhorse for close to two decades and was the main firepower used in the 1956 Sinai Campaign and the 1967 Six-Day-War.

Source: IDF Spokesperson Archives

1996 - "Operation Grapes of Wrath "
On 11 April 1996 the IDF launched an intense 16-day attack on Lebanon in response to repeated rocket attacks on Israel's northern region. Although the aim of the operation was to achieve the complete cessation of rocket attacks by Hizballah, the attack was also seen as an attempt to undermine the popular support for Hizballah among the Lebanese and to prompt Syria to exercise its control over Hizballah. The operation also attempted to carried a message to the Lebanese government by bombing electric power plants near Beirut. This was seen as an implicit warning to the Lebanese authorities that their economic recovery and rebuilding of the country's infrastructure were at stake if they too did not rein the Hizballah.

During the operation the IDF attacked Hizballah strongholds, training grounds and personnel. The Israeli Air Force and artillery destroyed Hizballah headquarters, training sites, staging areas and residences of Hizballah leaders as well as large numbers of Katyusha launchers and mortars. To avoid Israeli casualties the IDF did not commit large-scale ground forces in search and destroy missions. In part due to this fact, not all of the Katyusha rockets were destroyed.

During the campaign a tragic incident occurred when the IDF responded to a Hizballah attack launched from close proximity to a UNIFIL camp where Lebanese civilians had assembled to seek shelter. IDF artillery shells hit the camp, killing 4 UNIFIL soldiers and some 100 Lebanese civilians. This incident was condemned internationally and intensified efforts to seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

On 27 April 1996 a cease-fire understanding was reached between Israel and Hizballah which outlined the rules of conduct of the forces in the area. These understandings, similar to those reached in 1993, stated that Israel would not attack Lebanese villages while the Hizballah would refrain from launching attacks out of these villages or attack civilian targets. It also set up a Monitoring Committee for the Implementation of the Grapes of Wrath Understandings, comprised of representatives from the US, France, Syria, Israel and Lebanon which convene to monitor and discuss infringements of the understandings by the two sides.

Excerpts from an IDF Press Conference on Operation "Grapes of Wrath"
25 April 1996
The following remarks were made by Deputy Chief of Staff Vilna'i. He spoke of the military moves which by then paralleled the diplomatic efforts led by the United States, and of some signs of Lebanese military action against Hizballah and a reduction in the number of rockets fired at Israel. Excerpts:

Remarks made by Maj.-Gen. Vilna'i:

The aim of Operation Grapes of Wrath is to wear down the operational capabilities of Hizballah and particularly, to place increasing pressure on the government of Lebanon and other influential forces. First among them is the Syrian regime, which has the power to influence the modus operandi of Hizballah.

The IDF has bean attacking Hizballah bases, headquarters' infrastructure in Lebanon and launching sites; this in order to reduce the Katyusha rocket fire.

The IDF is far from employing its full potential. The force which the IDF employs is measured and increased in accordance with each phase. Our activities caused Hizballah to withdraw further north and as a result of that, their fire is less accurate and barely reaches the border. As a result of our pressure, we have seen first signs of activity undertaken by the Lebanese army and by local citizens against Hizballah rocket launchers and squads. They are not interested in seeing Hizballah operating in the vicinity of their villages.

From the very first day of the operation, we have called upon Lebanese citizens - and I repeat our call - to distance themselves from the terrorists.

I would like to stress that the operation will take a considerable amount of time and will require endurance and perseverance. We shall carry out the operation in its entirety, subject to - and with - government approval.

The Hizballah organization deploys its launchers in the vicinity of mosques, private homes and schools. On several occasions, they have fired from near UNIFIL posts and when UNIFIL troops tried to put a halt to such activity, Hizballah retaliated by firing on them. In one incident, a hand-grenade was thrown at a UNIFIL position and on another occasion, rockets were fired at UNIFIL headquarters in Nakura.

This is a phased operation, which is parallel to the diplomatic activities. We are striking Hizballah supply centers. This afternoon, we attacked a PFSP-GC installation in Jebel Ein El Badya, which served as a munitions depot from which materiel would be transferred to Hizballah. When the investigation of the Qana incident is completed, we will publish the details. According to our knowledge, the Hizballah fire endangered our forces in the field. The artillery commander who fired was unaware of the presence of the presence of civilians. There was no unmanned UAV or aircraft overhead, due to adverse weather conditions.

IDF Spokesperson Archives