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The April War Saga: Sayyed Zulfiqar’s Evaluation of The War’s Outcome, Strategies of Both Sides

The April War Saga: Sayyed Zulfiqar’s Evaluation of The War’s Outcome, Strategies of Both Sides
folder_openApril 1996 Aggression access_time4 years ago
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Sayyid Zulfikar's take on the April 1996 victory: the Islamic resistance resolved the war and imposed the missile deterrence formula

By Mohammad A. Al-Husseini

Al-Ahed is releasing a series of special accounts including one from the great jihadi leader Mustafa Badreddine aka Sayyed Zulfiqar. The content unveils the role he played in the fight against the “Israeli” enemy in 1996, which became known as the April war. The enemy called it the Grapes of Wrath Operation. But the grapes quickly soured.

On one spring day that year, a group of leaders from the Islamic Resistance gathered in a small room around an old-fashioned diesel-fueled space heater. The walls were covered with maps and a board. The leaders leaned on one another. There wasn’t enough room for everyone so some stood in the doorway, listening intensely. All eyes and ears were on one man – a young leader explaining the course of the confrontation and summing up the achievements. That leader was Sayyed Zulfiqar.

He sat behind a small desk. In front of him were a set of printed handbooks detailing the April victory. He looked like someone reciting chapters of literature as he read from the pages. At times he seemed happy. In other instances he was deeply moved. However, at all times he glanced through the room as if painting a portrait of pride. Every once in a while he would acknowledge and commend the men of God who wrote the saga of victory.

Sayyed Zulfiqar set out to review the course of the war over a period of 16 days. He was clear in his assertion that Hezbollah was expecting a confrontation. The war was a certainty and resulted from the Sharm El-Sheikh conference, which implied that the main objective of the hostilities would involve striking the uprising in Palestine and the resistance in Lebanon. Sayyed states the bullet points of the meeting as follows:

1. Why did the enemy initiate the war?

2. The Resistance’s missile launching tactics

3. The supplies

4. Psychological warfare

5. The outcome of the military and political wars

“Israeli” Prime Minister Shimon Peres thought that within a few days the matter would be settled. He would be re-elected as head of the government for another term and succeed in achieving the objectives of the Grapes of Wrath aggression. The objectives can be summarized as follows:

1- To hit Hezbollah’s organizational structure, dismantle its institutions, and eliminate its main figures

2- To destroy the resistance’s military structure, strike its bases, liquidate the first rank of its military commanders at the very least, and destroy its logistical centers and Katyusha missile platforms or at least push them more than 20 km away from the Lebanese-Palestinian border

3- To dismantle the July understanding reached after the Seven-Day War or Operation Accountability in 1993 and to impose the Kiryat Shmona-Beirut equation

4- To separate Lebanon’s course from Syria’s in order to isolate Lebanon and force it to sign a political-security agreement with the enemy along the lines of the May 17 agreement

5- To create a rift between the Lebanese resistance and the country’s government and people and fragment the Lebanon’s national fabric by reviving sectarian strife in favor of strengthening the role of the internal parties linked to "Israel"

6- To strike economic and human components in Lebanon and to empty the southern villages of its inhabitants in order to create an internal humanitarian crisis during the war that would pit public opinion against Hezbollah and the resistance

The lessons learned from the first strike

The enemy laid out its agenda and started the war on April 11. Its warplanes carried out 34 raids on the first day.

"We benefited greatly from the first strike," Sayyed said as he sat up in his chair. "We made a decision that all officers, specialists, or sector officials must have a backup headquarters. When the enemy carried out its first strike, it knew that the headquarters were also the telecommunications headquarters. Consequently, we replaced all the military and security centers, and all of them became secret centers. We left only two centers, which the enemy targeted later. But it did not achieve any of its objectives from these strikes."

What is the lesson? What is the result of this procedure?

"We did not fall into a state of confusion and turmoil. Everything was prepared and transferred to another place. And within only half an hour, the backup plan was ready. The communications department was present through a secret communications center connected to all the vital centers as well as all the major authorities, centers, and officials in the leadership and on the battlefield."

The enemy escalated its aggression and committed a series of massacres, including the Sohmor massacre. The Islamic Resistance responded by bombing the settlements. The massacre involving the Al-Mansouri ambulance took place under intense raids that resulted in dozens of martyrs and wounded civilians. The general manager of “Israel’s” Ministry of Foreign Affairs Uri Savir stated that "the raids on Lebanon have American and Western support. They aim not only to defend the security of ‘Israel’ but to prevent Lebanon from supporting the Hezbollah." – this was a green light to raise the ceiling of the war.

The Islamic Resistance did not stand idly by. Rather it carried out attacks on “Israeli” and Lahad positions and launched rockets on the settlements. It became a tit-for-tat confrontation, and psychological warfare played a role. The enemy was highly cautious hindering the Mujahideen from carrying out operations in the “Israeli” depth. On the fourth day, the Lebanese capital was under attack for a third time. The objective was to establish the Beirut-Kiryat Shmona equation – an equation that the Islamic Resistance vanquished on the sixth day during which it also bombed 19 settlements. Its Mujahideen launched a large-scale attack on enemy positions in Sujud, Bir Kallab, al-Tohra, al-Burj, Haddatha, Beit Yahoun, and Ali al-Taher. The artillery barrage targeted the Al-Suwayda site. On that day, the first Islamic Resistance fighter was martyred.

The missile deterrence equation

How was the military performance rated along the front? The enemy ferociously tried to strike all the Katyusha launchers. “Israeli” missiles and rockets poured onto the launch sites just a few minutes after the first missiles were launched.

"But the Mujahideen resumed the shelling every time, relying on the movement tactic and not staying in one location. That is why we only had one martyr on the sixth day despite the hundreds of raids and shells."

Here, Sayyed Zulfiqar breathes deeply and pauses for a second as if conjuring a scene. Then, he shifts his gaze between the brothers and says, “can you imagine, some of the brothers were subjected to more than ten consecutive raids. They were bombarded with rockets weighing a thousand pounds, but they continued to fire without tiring. A cave collapsed on some of them. Others were buried under the rubble of a building that was bombed by warplanes. Suddenly, they find a large hammer next to them and use it to make their way out of the rubble and come out alive. Where did this hammer come from? Is this not divine kindness!?"

Sayyed Zulfiqar pauses once more and then resumes firmly, “There was no safe place in the southern regions during the war, especially along the confrontation areas. And the resistance tactic of launching rockets was aimed to deter. The issue was no longer just about firing rockets, but it turned into a balance of real terror equation imposed by the missile deterrence the Islamic Resistance adopted."

On the seventh day, the enemy began implementing the third stage of its objectives by a helicopter and land bombing. Meanwhile, the resistance’s missiles rained down on 14 settlements. It also attacked the Baracheet and Dasbha positions as well as gatherings of the enemy east of Marjayoun.

Here, Sayyed speaks about one aspect of the divine guidance. On the eighth day, “the brothers discovered a big gathering of ‘Israeli’ forces in Yater. They located the position and opened fire. The shells hit the gathering directly.”

On that day, too, the enemy committed two massacres. The first was Qana where 118 civilians were martyred after taking refuge in a United Nations compound. The second massacre was in Nabatiyeh. The “Israelis” cut off the road between the south and Beirut to prevent supply routes. 18 resistance fighters were martyred.

"The enemy stabbed itself in the heart by committing the Qana massacre," Sayyed Zulfiqar says. Amnon Shahak, the chief of staff of the occupation army, apologized for the massacre. And the military and political institutions began to contradict each other about the war and its consequences.

On the battlefield, the resistance foiled an infiltration operation by the enemy on the west Bekaa axis. Sayyed Zulfiqar explains “Israel’s” intentions: "They did not want to occupy the axis, but secure control by being able to survey the movement of the Mujahideen and missile launch sites."

Early signs of defeat and retreat

On the tenth day, the enemy began the last step of the third stage. It targeted the main roads between the villages and sought to cut nearly 60 roads between 117 villages as well as snipe cars on all roads. On the other hand, the resistance bombed 16 settlements and attacked the Sujud, Sidoun, and al-Burj positions. It also destroyed a 155 mm artillery launcher. On the eleventh day, the “Israeli” retreat began.

Uri Orr, the enemy's deputy minister of war, said, "We know that Hezbollah has many missiles, but none of us believed that it would continue to bomb at this pace."

The leadership of the occupation army accuses the military intelligence service of not being accurate in determining Hezbollah's missile capabilities, which led to the failure of the military operation.

Until the twelfth day, the enemy was unable to achieve any of its objectives amid an absence of a political solution. The enemy acknowledged that things are heading for the worse from a military standpoint. And the battle began to sway in favor of the resistance. It attacked sites, blew up enemy communication channels between the settlements and the occupied strip, ambushed “Israeli” forces along the Beit Yahoun-Baracheet road, and attacked Ali al-Taher and Dibbin positions as well as the enemy’s shelter in al-Shraifi.

The enemy began gradually reducing its aggression. Yossi Beilin, the man tasked with the settlement process, declared, “The operation has no objectives but to break the restrictions of the July 1993 understanding.”

By doing so, he demolished the objective the enemy had previously declared which was to eliminate Hezbollah and dismantle its military and field system.

The decisive field tactic

The Islamic Resistance mastered the use of the formula of bombing the settlements with the aim of imposing the balance of terror equation.

"This was not a decision made by the tactical leaders on the battlefield during the war. It was an order by the commander in chief of the Resistance, His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah,” Sayyed Zulfiqar said as he evaluated the special tactics the resistance adopted in launching missile.

"The launchers were not fixed in a clear and drawn line so that the enemy could not grasp the manner in which the launching platforms were distributed. This depleted the capabilities of the air force and its leadership, which was forced to conduct nonstop flights along the southern regions. It also prevented the enemy from drawing a geographical map of the distribution of the platforms over the area of confrontation.”

Sayyed Zulfiqar asserted that "the enemy did not dare to expand the circle of aggression. During the war, it did not see the resistance retreat. Rather, the resistance escalated the momentum of its operations, its bombings, and its attacks every time the enemy escalated its aggression. All its attempts did not succeed in stopping rockets from being launched at the settlements or cut off the resistance’s supply routes. Meanwhile, the general mobilization formations played an important role in supporting the resistance’s field operations as it was considered the largest army in case a war broke out.”

The final strike

The Israeli aggression stopped at four o'clock in the morning, at dawn on the sixteenth day. The rockets of the Islamic Resistance "wanted to have the last say. The settlers woke up to a final barrage of missiles to always remind them of the nightmare of the terror and the balance of the Arabs that Hezbollah consecrated."

This was the lesson that Sayyed Zulfiqar affirmed with pride. But the surprise was not only the outcome of the war in favor of Lebanon and the resistance but also in the numbers. For 16 days, the enemy launched 833 air strikes, 881 land bombings, and 65 naval strikes.

The resistance responded by bombing 47 settlements and launching 696 barrages of missiles (each barrage ranges between 3 to 12 missiles), meaning a total of 1,000 to 1,100 rockets. It also conducted 54 military operations, including attacking and repelling an infiltration, an ambush, and an artillery bombardment.

146 people were martyred. 300 civilians were wounded. Four Lebanese soldiers were martyred and eight wounded. Two Syrian soldiers were martyred and five wounded. 14 resistance fighters were martyred, among them eight who were on military duty. The rest were martyred in strikes.

What other tactics did the Islamic resistance adopt in the April war? What are the results of the confrontation? What did the April victory establish? This will be revealed in the second part.