Press Conference on Operation "Grapes of Wrath"
(April 11, 1996)
In the first months of 1996, Hizballah intensified its attacks on Israeli forces in the security zone in southern Lebanon, on SLA forces and on targets inside Israel. This was in clear violation of the understandings reached at the end of "Operation Accountability" of June 1993. It was obvious that Hizballah, with Iranian backing and Syrian tacit approval, was determined to hurt the peace process by heating up the Lebanese arena, thus forcing Israel to respond. In the operation Israeli warplanes and helicopters attacked Hizballah targets in Beirut and southern Lebanon. Israeli warships blockaded Lebanese ports and artillery fire brought about the flight of thousands of civilians from the security zone. The Hizballah fired scores of rockets at Israeli settlements inside Israel. Following are remarks by the Chief-of-Staff and the Head of Intelligence Branch:
Chief-of-Staff Shahak: Using the IAF, we operated today against three sectors. We began before dawn and afterwards, during the course of the day, carried out attacks in the area of southern Lebanon near Hizballah targets whether with installations or with Hizballah members. The goal was to bring it to the awareness of Hizballah. Hizballah, essentially through its presence among the civilian areas, is attempting to find protection from IDF forces. We have no intention of harming the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon and certainly not these sites. One of their anti-aircraft vehicles fired upon IDF helicopters.
The interpretation given by Hizballah to the June 1993 understandings are far from understandings. We see the government of Lebanon as responsible for what happens in its territory and is able to do more. The IDF will continue to operate and the Northern Command is ready to act. Today was a quiet day in the north. Not one shot was fired and the Northern Command is ready for all developments that will occur and is assisting the residents through our means and with the participation of other factors.
Head of the Intelligence Branch, Maj.-Gen. Ya'alon: The objectives attacked today were Hizballah objectives in which there were no civilians, despite the fact that Hizballah works under the cover of civilians. Around 4:30 hours in the morning, the first objective was attacked - near the city of Ba'al Beck - "Tel Ki'al". Syrian forces are located approximately 700 meters from the objective and Lebanese army forces are also found in this area. The objective serves as a Hizballah munitions and supply base and includes storage sites, bunkers and anti-aircraft positions. The objective was hit according to plan.
Hizballah closed the area, in the framework of its policy of reducing the damage done to it. The second site hit was west of Jebel Tzeffi - two buildings inhabited solely by Hizballah operatives. The base was used for logistical activities of Hizballah and left from there to attack our positions or those of the Southern Lebanese Army in the Jebel Sudud and Jebel Razla areas. The two buildings were demolished and Hizballah, in accordance with its usual practice, announced that a mule had been killed. The third site (The fourth, more accurately) was attacked at around 10:30, in the heart of Beirut.
In the Bir-al Eved neighborhood there is a closed section surrounded by barricades and fences, which is used exclusively by Hizballah and which civilians are not permitted to enter. The building has ten stories. The site which was attacked was in the northern wing, on the first floor - at which missiles were fired - at the office which was "the operations center of Hizballah." During the day, a number of vehicles used by Hizballah were attacked, near the village of Azarkia near the Litani and in the area of Agia and Ras Ainab-al Yonus, north of Sidon. We know that these vehicles were used by Hizballah. During the attacks, a Lebanese army armored personnel carrier opened anti-aircraft fire on the helicopters and one of the attack helicopters fired at the APC and destroyed it. The Lebanese army reported that a soldier had been killed and two wounded.