KHIAM, Lebanon, Aug. 14 -- A little after dawn Monday, the shells crashed every few seconds. The last fell at 7:56 a.m. Then they stopped, as suddenly as they had begun 33 days before. And into the streets of this Shiite Muslim town, where electricity wires laced through rubble and a tree branch sprawled across the hood of a green BMW, the fighters emerged, bathed in a cool mountain breeze.
There was no gunfire in the air, no chants, no jubilant displays of celebration. There were, rather, the satisfied expressions of survival. Men embraced, kissing each other's cheeks, some emerging into sunlight for the first time in weeks. Cellphones, in almost everyone's hand, rang with queries of others' whereabouts, the fate of houses and the reality of a cease-fire that still seemed fragile. They smiled. "Thank God for your safety" was the refrain.
And Hussein Kalash, burly, hard and confident, offered three words that defined the war for Khiam's defenders, the Hezbollah fighters.
"We're still here," he said.
Israel is leaving the battlefield in Lebanon. It has already begun to withdraw troops from north of the border, and plans to withdraw all of its forces when relieved by UNIFIL+ and the Lebanese Army. When that relief might take place is unclear.
What is clear is that Hizbullah's forces remain in place all over the disputed zone and that its command and control of its forces remains effective. How can you know that? Easy. The day before the cease fire Hizbullah fired 250 rockets into Israel and since the cease fire has fired none. This represents unmistakable evidence of effective command.
The IDF believes that Hizbullah is using the southward flow of returning refugees to infiltrate reinforcements and re-supply into the area near the border only partially occupied by the IDF. Between and among the scattered positions of the IDF there are many areas empty of Israeli troops. There are Hizbullah forces in these areas waiting for re-supply. The IDF must know that. Why are they vacating the battlefield in these circumstances?
A basic lesson of history is that one must win on the battlefield to dictate the peace. A proof of winning on the battlefield has always been possession of that battlefield when the shooting stops. Those who remain on the field are just about always believed to have been victorious. Those who leave the field are believed to be the defeated.
Lee remained on the field a day after both Antietam and Gettysburg waiting to resume the fight. McClellan and Meade did not respond and Lee then moved away withdrawing to the south. He is thought to have been defeated in both battles although both could be argued to have been a "draw."
Look at the man on the stretcher. If this situation continues to develop along present lines, he will be considered the victor of the 2006 Israeli/Hizbullah War.