TEL AVIV – Military intelligence officers here have been asked not to talk to the media without prior authorization from their superiors while some are being petitioned to highlight Israel’s gains in Lebanon, sources in the Israeli Defense Forces intelligence unit told WorldNetDaily.

The sources said Hezbollah has been dealt a “decisive blow” by the Jewish state’s military campaign, but contrary to statements by political leaders in Jerusalem the terror group’s infrastructure in much of south Lebanon has not been destroyed. They said Hezbollah maintains the ability to fire hundreds of rockets per day into Israel.

In an address to the Knesset yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the United Nations cease-fire resolution imposed yesterday morning was a substantial achievement for Israel.

“There is no longer a state within a state, an entity that exploits Lebanon’s weakness,” he said.

Olmert said Israel’s military campaign in Lebanon had “changed the strategic balance in the region” to Hezbollah’s disadvantage.

He claimed Hezbollah’s vast arsenal of weapons had been largely destroyed and the terror group’s self-confidence was undermined. His comments aroused audible scoffs from other Knesset members.

But military intelligence officials say Hezbollah strongholds in the central regions of south Lebanon remain intact. They said because the IDF was not authorized to conduct a large-scale ground assault to the Latani River – about 18 miles into Lebanon – until two days before yesterday’s cease-fire was imposed, major nearby cities such as Tyre were not cleaned out of Hezbollah fighters. Tyre and surrounding areas were routinely used by Hezbollah to fire rockets into northern Israeli cities.

Military officials say that from the start of Israel’s campaign in Lebanon last month the IDF petitioned for the deployment of up to 40,000 ground troops to advance immediately to the Latani River – taking up the swath of territory from which most Hezbollah rockets are fired – and from there work their way back to the Israeli border while surrounding and then cleaning out Hezbollah strongholds under heavy aerial cover.

But Olmert at first only approved aerial assaults. After Hezbollah retaliated by firing large numbers of rockets into Israel, the Olmert government approved a smaller ground offensive of up to 8,000 soldiers who according to military officials were not directed to advance to the Latani. The IDF was charged with cleaning out Hezbollah’s bases within about three miles of the Israeli border.

IDF leaders told WND they suffered in “very specific” ways on the battlefield because of a lack of sufficient ground troops. They cited instances in which they claimed there were not enough soldiers to surround key villages, such as Bint JBail in southern Lebanon, allowing Hezbollah fighters to infiltrate cities after the IDF began combat inside the areas.

After nearly four weeks of fighting, Olmert’s cabinet last week approved the larger assault the IDF had petitioned for, authorizing about 40,000 troops to enter Lebanon and advance to the Latani River. The IDF estimated it would need about three days to reach central Lebanon and another four to six weeks to successfully wipe out the Hezbollah infrastructure in the areas leading back to the Israeli border.

But yesterday morning – three days after the Israeli army was given a green light to advance – a cease-fire was imposed and the Jewish state suspended operations.

The Israeli military will hold key positions until the Lebanese Army backed by an armed international force deploys in the area, according to cease-fire conditions.

“Hezbollah’s infrastructure in areas nearing the Latani was not destroyed,” said a military official.

The official pointed to Sunday’s volley by Hezbollah – one day before the cease-fire was imposed – of over 240 rockets into Israel, the largest number the group has fired so far. One Israeli civilian was killed in the attacks; 26 others were injured.

“The message sent is that Hezbollah absolutely maintains the capability of firing hundreds of rockets per day into Israel. Wasn’t one of the military campaign’s main goals to eliminate the rocket threat?” commented the military official.

But military intelligence officials tell WND they have been asked not to talk to the media unless they receive authorization from the IDF spokesman’s office. They say some officials have been asked to highlight Israel’s military gains in Lebanon.

IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz yesterday sent an e-mail letter to military officials asking them to limit their public comments.

The letter, obtained by WND, states unauthorized leaks to the media could endanger Israeli soldiers.

“Extensive media coverage has its price, primarily in the unchecked exposure of force movement, size, objectives, and so on. Unchecked information endangers our goals and puts the lives of our soldiers at risk,” wrote Halutz.

Some military leaders here told reporters they have questions as to the timing of Halutz’s missive.

“Perhaps it’s a sensitive issue for [Halutz],” one of the officers told the Ynet news website. “But it seems that the first missive to IDF officers since the onset of the current conflict should first offer encouragement and support to commanders in these difficult days, and then touch on other issues.”

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