Israel’s intervention into Lebanon in 1982 was in response to a series of events over the previous decade in which Lebanon disintegrated politically and fell increasingly under the influence of Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) prepared three options for the Israeli response: (1) a shallow penetration into Lebanon to clear out PLO camps near the border, (2) a deeper operation to the Alawi river or to the outskirts of Beirut to eliminate PLO strongholds in Tyre and Sidon, but avoiding a clash with the Syrians or entry into PLO dominated Beirut, and (3) the “Big Pines Plan” which envisioned a confrontation with Syria and intervention into Beirut with the objective of breaking Syrian influence in Lebanon and to drive the PLO completely out of the country.
The Israeli Government rejected the “Big Pines Plan”, approving the second, more limited option which was expected to drive 40km into Lebanon and be completed within three days. Instead, the Defense Minister deliberately manipulated events to ensure that the “Big Pines Plan” was carried out. As a result, the IDF was entangled in a situation where it planned to carry out a relatively limited, short-term operation but had to fight a much longer campaign which eventually lasted three months plus an additional year’s occupation of Lebanon due to senior Ministry of Defense contravention of Government authorization.
The fighting began on June 5, 1982 when the Israeli Air Force began a bombing campaign after an assassination attempt on the Israeli ambassador in London. Following this, the IDF crossed the border on June 6th to commence Operation Peace for Galilee. This operation consisted of a three-pronged assault with the Western Force advancing towards Beirut along the Mediterranean coast, a Central Force advancing through the Lebanese mountains to seize the western heights over the Bekaa Valley, and the Bekaa Forces group whose aim was to destroy Syrian forces in the Bekaa Valley in northeastern Lebanon. In terms of urban warfare, only the Western Force saw extensive fighting in cities and it is the focus of this case study.
A. Strategic Lessons:
Lesson 1: Military action did not solve the political problems that underlay Israel’s difficulties in Southern Lebanon. Operation Peace for Galilee, which began on June 6, 1982 when Israeli military forces invaded southern Lebanon, was publicly portrayed as a limited operation to drive the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) away from Israel’s northern border and secure a 40km buffer zone. Privately, Israel’s Defense Minister saw this as an opportunity to eliminate the terrorist threat from Lebanon completely; e.g., destroy the PLO’s military strength , eliminate their infrastructure, and drive them out of Lebanon. The Defense Minister also hoped to reduce Syria’s influence in southern Lebanon as well. These private objectives broadened the political and strategic objectives of the war (without the apparent knowledge or concurrence of the Government) and gradually transformed its character into a war against Syria and a war for control of Lebanon. The Israeli military achieved its tactical military objectives, but Israel ultimately lost the wider political battle. Operation Peace for Galilee ended with Lebanon more hostile to Israel than when it began, the substitution of one set of terrorists for another, Syrian influence substantially greater than before, and Israel’s international standing sullied.
Lesson 2: It was difficult for Israeli military commanders to get well-defined policy objectives to which they could work steadily and logically. Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon’s hidden agenda, and his consequent need to conceal the true purpose of the war from the Israeli Cabinet, deprived his military commanders of their ability to plan and execute decisive operations. Secrecy, in turn, bred confusion and lack of commitment among lower levels of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). The mismatch between stated political and military objectives, predictably, led to major operational errors because Israel’s key thrusts against the Syrians and Beirut never received the overt priority needed for success. Thus, operations against Syrian forces came late and indecisively with the consequence that the IDF faced prepared and well dug-in Syrian forces. The IDF’s slow advance to Beirut, and the consequent difficulty in taking the city after pausing on the outskirts, was due to confusion about operational objectives in the minds of field commanders.
Lesson 3: Overall Israeli command throughout the campaign suffered from a lack of continuity. Deployment of IDF forces during the overall campaign was marked by a frequent shifting of units from the operational control of one command to another, moving field commanders in and out of positions of command, and by the formation of small, task-oriented operations. Brigades would begin under the command of one officer only to end up under the command of someone else after having passed through one or two interim commands along the way. In one case, a command switched no fewer than four times in less than 30 kilometers. Operational confusion also resulted when chains of command were disrupted by the practice of continuously forming and disbanding special military task forces.
Lesson 4: Problems with disjointed command structures were exacerbated by too much senior leadership at the operational level. Many Israeli officers complained that there were too many commanders “running around the battlefield often with nothing to do or commanding piecemeal operations for short periods of time.” This situation was a natural consequence of the IDF’s practice of forming special task forces for limited operations and shifting command responsibility as units transited from one area to another.
Lesson 5: Contrary to initial Government expectations, Operation Peace for Galilee was neither of short duration nor low cost. The Israeli Cabinet authorized a limited incursion into Lebanon which was suppose to last just three days and produce few casualties. What it got was three months of fighting and a long-running, large-scale occupation. During the three months of fighting and the following year of occupation, the IDF suffered 3,316 casualties. While not large in absolute terms, these losses were staggering for a small country like Israel which was inordinately sensitive to casualty rates. Indeed, if one were to adjust these casualty figures to make them demographically equivalent to the United States, they would have equated to the U.S. taking 195,840 casualties for the same period. A large portion of the Israeli losses came from urban operations; e.g., Israeli casualties for the siege of Beirut equaled or were greater than those taken against the PLO in the entire war in the South. Indeed, losses in besieging Beirut cost the IDF almost 24% of its dead and 32% of its wounded for the entire war.
Lesson 6: Distinct advantage accrues to the side with less concern for the safety of the civilian population. Realizing that the IDF wished to minimize civilian casualties for political reasons, the PLO sought to exploit that reticence during the battle for Beirut. Thus, the PLO located many of its military resources like artillery and ammunition dumps inside civilian areas, especially within the densely populated districts like the refugee camps and Fakahani. The PLO also chose to site weapons firing positions near or within non-combatant structures (e.g., hospitals, schools, embassies) believed to be immune to Israeli attack for political reasons. These tactics had mixed results. The IDF was very restrained in attacking parts of Beirut which contained few Palestinians, but were much less cautious about sections of the city and refugee camps where Palestinian civilians predominated .
Lesson 7: Wishful thinking and intellectual predisposition prevented leaders and commanders from believing accurate intelligence assessments. Senior PLO leaders had an excellent understanding of Israeli intentions before the incursion, even to the point of Arafat having obtained a copy of an attack plan which was remarkably close to actual Israeli plan for Operation Peace in Galilee. For at least five months before the invasion, Arafat was both publicly and privately warning that Israel was preparing a major attack, possibly even extending to Beirut itself. Timely and accurate intelligence warning of Israel intentions went unheeded by the PLO command system, in part, because PLO commanders could no longer distinguish real warnings from political gestures, particularly when there had been so many false warning issued in the past.
B. Operational Lessons:
Lesson 8: The IDF had a well-developed military doctrine for urban warfare which influenced its tactics, but not its overall force structure. The IDF began developing doctrine for military operations in urban terrain in 1973 as a result of its experiences in fighting for Jerusalem in 1967 as well as in Suez City and Qantara in 1973. This doctrine envisioned two types of urban offensive, one in which armor leads and the other in which armor supports infantry as it opens and secures an area. Traditional IDF reliance on armor usually favored them using the former technique until an area proved too difficult to take with armor. Israel’s relative lack of significant urban warfare experience to date, plus a decided bias toward armored warfare, meant that Israeli doctrine for urban warfare had little impact on its overall force structure. Thus, the IDF lacked sufficient quantities of infantry necessary for urban operations in Lebanon.
Lesson 9: Training in urban operations greatly benefited those Israeli soldiers who received it. Unfortunately, not all soldiers were afforded that opportunity. Israeli combat training in military operations in urban terrain was extensive prior to the invasion of Lebanon and was judged very valuable in the aftermath of the battle for Beirut. Units with such training better understood the hazards of fighting in a city and appeared to be more confident than units which got no such training. Additionally, coordination of combat and combat support elements, as exercised in pre-invasion Israeli urban training, was afterwards judged more effective because of pre-invasion training. Part of that training included small tactical training exercises in captured Syrian towns in the Golan Heights and villages in southern Lebanon. Although the environment of these small towns differed significantly from the situation later encountered in heavily built-up Beirut, the training seems to have served the IDF well. Unfortunately, only the regular army units received training in urban warfare. This was a serious problem since the IDF maintains only a small cadre force which is fleshed out by large numbers of reservists -- none of whom received adequate training in urban operations because of the limited annual training time available to reservists. Consequently, reservists performed less well and experienced more casualties in urban fighting.
Lesson 10: Israeli rules of engagement were difficult to operationalize. The IDF was given clear, but conflicting, rules of engagement. Initial rules of engagement stressed the need to minimize civilian casualties and collateral damage in cities. These same rules also mandated that Israeli commanders minimize their own casualties and adhere to a fast-paced operational timetable. The Israelis soon learned in the slow house-to-house fighting in the battle of Tyre that it was impossible to accommodate these conflicting instructions.
Lesson 11: Rules of engagement are sometimes difficult to enforce. Every effort was made in the initial phase of the campaign to enforce the rules about limiting injuries among non-combatants. Nevertheless, ground force personnel often sought ways around such restrictions upon the use of heavy weapons and target selection in cities. One such way was to call for an air strike when the ground forces met stiff resistance. In this way, responsibility for civilian casualties and collateral damage could be displaced to that more anonymous platform, the airplane, and to the difficulties of carrying out precision bombing in urban environments. In this way, the ground forces had strictly observed the letter of the restrictions against firing into civilian areas while successfully evading the spirit of those rules.
Lesson 12: Concern about civilian casualties and property damage declined as IDF casualties rose. The Israelis soon realized that heavy firepower was the only way to minimize their own casualties and maintain an adequate operational tempo. Consequently, the Israelis began to bring artillery fire to bear on Palestinian strong points with the consequence that collateral damage rose sharply. They also increasingly employed close air support, even in refugee camps. By the battle of Beirut, the IDF was engaging in “intensive bombardment” of Syrian and PLO targets in Palestinian sections of the city.
Lesson 13: Overwhelming firepower can make up for organizational and tactical deficiencies in the short-run if one is willing to disregard collateral damage. Early in the campaign, the Israelis realized that large numbers of infantry would be necessary to clear built-up areas; something that IDF lacked because of its traditional emphasis on maneuver warfare. Lacking enough infantry, the IDF resorted to heavy weapons. Firepower over infantry was probably the preferred (and preordained) solution in Lebanon since the IDF had earlier increased its reliance on mobile artillery to suppress enemy infantry rather than expand its own infantry forces in the wake of lessons learned from the 1973 War. Indeed, infantry forces proportionately declined as a percentage of the total IDF force mix between 1973 and 1982 as artillery forces were built-up.
Lesson 14: The tempo of urban operations is so intense that soldiers tend to “burn out”. After-action assessments of IDF performance during urban operations point out the difficulty the IDF had sustaining combat operations because of the high stress level it imposed on individual soldiers. This observation is borne out by Israeli casualty figures: i.e., 10-24% of Israeli soldiers serving in Lebanon experienced psychological problems as a result of their battle experience. This compared with a psychological casualty rate of only 3.5% to 5% in the 1973 war means that battle shock casualties suffered in Lebanon were two to five times more serious. The number of soldiers able to return to their units after treatment was also much lower than should have been expected.
Lesson 15: Non-combatants do not behave sensibly. Many Israeli military planners presumed that civilians in urban combat zones would follow “common sense” and abandon areas where fighting was taking place. In many cases, this did not occur. Civilians would instead try to stay in their homes. There were many reasons for this; some based on experiences in the earlier Lebanese civil war. Some families were convinced by PLO propaganda that if they left their homes during an IDF truce, they would be killed by the Israelis. Some probably underestimated the likely duration and intensity of the fighting and felt they could withstand the effects of Israeli/PLO/Syrian combat. Others simply feared that soldiers would loot their possessions if the rightful owners were not there to protect them. (A very reasonable fear given the prevalence of looting during the earlier Lebanese civil war.)
Lesson 16: The large-scale movement of urban non-combatants can significantly affect military operations. In excess of 30,000 non-combatants fled the city of Tyre for the beaches southwest of the city at the urging of Israeli psychological warfare units. Later, half of these people returned to the city in the midst of the fighting. Such a massive exodus clogged roads and delayed IDF attacks on PLO strongpoints. Similarly, the need to impose cease-fires and open lanes for civilians to escape the fighting in Beirut slowed IDF operations in the city.
Lesson 17: Psychological operations were a major element of Israeli strategy. Psychological warfare played a vital role in the Israeli seizure of Tyre and Sidon as well as during the siege of Beirut. Throughout the campaign, the IDF widely employed leaflets, pamphlets, and loudspeakers to get its message across. While Israeli psychological operations were often successful in achieving tactical goals like encouraging large numbers of civilians to abandon urban areas to facilitate combat operations, they were not successful at the campaign level nor at a strategic level in getting PLO fighters to lay down their arms nor in convincing the Lebanese Sunni Muslim population to pressure the PLO into leaving.
Lesson 18: Urban operations in Lebanon stressed the IDF’s logistics system because of unusual requirements and abnormally high consumption rates. The IDF took a number of modest, but important steps to supplement the standard equipment suites of units prior to deploying them in cities. Hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, light anti-tank weapons, and illumination rounds for mortars were issued to infantry platoons in larger numbers than normal. The number of short-range tactical radios, especially hand-held radios, were also increased beyond the usual unit allotments.
Lesson 19: Standard Israeli military unit configurations were inappropriate for urban combat. During the battle for Beirut, the IDF adopted a task-oriented form of tactical organization which cross-attached tanks and self-propelled artillery to infantry units. In such cases, the armor and artillery generally remained under the infantry’s command for the duration of the tactical action.
Lesson 20: Failure to understand the importance of civil affairs cost Israeli commanders dearly. Local IDF commanders did not understand the vital importance of civil affairs for on-going urban combat operations. Thus, civil affairs efforts were ineffectual. Commanders failed to grasp the immediate combat implications or the larger political implications of poor population management. Israeli psychological operations convinced 30,000 non-combatants to flee Tyre and head for beaches outside the city. The subsequent inability of the IDF to provide food, water, clothing, shelter, and sanitation for these people produced predictable consequences. Many tried to return to the city; a process which complicated the northward movement of Israeli troops and the delivery of ordnance on selected targets in Tyre. IDF commanders compounded these oversights by interfering with the efforts of outside relief agencies to aid the displaced population of Tyre lest the PLO is some way benefit. This second civil affairs failure created an adverse situation with was quickly exploited by PLO psychological warfare specialists. The IDF also failed to educate its troops in dealing with Lebanese civilians. Although the Shi’a Muslim population of southern Lebanon either initially welcomed or was neutral to Israeli presence, it soon became hostile because of the behavior of IDF personnel and other factors.
Lesson 21: Aircraft played several important roles in urban operations, especially at the battle of Sidon. The Israeli Air Force carried out seven major missions in the attack on Sidon: (1) providing air cover for an amphibious landing, (2) bombing of selected targets prior to the IDF entering Sidon both to take out strong points and to psychologically demoralize PLO defenders in the refugee camps outside the city, (3) close air support during difficult battles for the city, (4) flying air cover over the city against the threat from Syrian fighters, (5) transporting of troops and equipment via helicopter around bottlenecks which developed on the ground in Sidon, (6) remove wounded via helicopter, and (7) dropping psychological warfare leaflets over the city.
Lesson 22: Amphibious operations have a role in urban warfare. Israel conducted two amphibious landings; a small one in support of operations in Tyre and a much larger one in about brigade strength during the campaign to capture Sidon.
Lesson 23: Special forces played a limited, but significant, role in Israeli operations. Israeli naval commandos made the initial landings during amphibious operations just north of Sidon and secured the beachhead for follow-on landing forces. This was the first major amphibious operation carried out by the Israeli Navy.
Lesson 24: Naval forces can play an important supporting role in urban operations. Israeli naval forces were used to conduct amphibious operations to achieve tactical surprise and to isolate Tyre and Sidon at the outset of the campaign. These were technically difficult to conduct due to a shortage of landing craft. Indeed, the Israel Navy had to keep shuttling the landing craft back and forth the 55 kilometers between the beaches north of Sidon and Israel. At Sidon, the Navy also took the ancient port under fire. Due to Beirut’s coastal location, the Israeli Navy also played an important part in isolating the PLO and other hostile forces in West Beirut near the coast. Additionally, the Navy provided modest fire support using its 76mm guns, but its main activities involved coastal patrols to prevent reinforcement of PLO positions or the seaborne delivery of supplies. Other tactical missions included preventing opposition forces from mining the beach or preparing defensive position.
C. Tactical Lessons:
Lesson 25: The shock value of artillery fire diminishes with time. The IDF discovered shock value of indirect artillery fire in urban warfare depending upon the frequency of its use. In urban areas like Tyre which were already accustomed to seeing and hearing artillery fire because of the Lebanese civil war, Israeli artillery fire had much less psychological shock value than Israeli commanders expected. Likewise in Beirut, its value continued to diminish as combatants (and civilians) became increasingly aware of its shortcomings when used in moderation against built-up areas.
Lesson 26: Forces operating in cities need special equipment not found in standard Israeli tables of organization and equipment. Beyond beefing up the quantities of standard TO&E equipment, the IDF also issued loudspeakers and snipping equipment which were not normally part of an infantry unit’s kit. Also supplemental armor was added to the sides and fronts of many tanks because of the heightened risk from anti-tank weapons in cities.
Lesson 27: Urban civilian structures (e.g., hospitals, churches, banks, embassies) are cited in tactically useful locations, command key intersections, and/or are built of especially solid construction and therefore afford defenders good protection. As mentioned earlier weapons emplacements in “off-limits” structures like hospitals, churches, schools, banks, and embassies afford the defender “political” protection if the attackers wishes to minimize civilian casualties and politically unacceptable collateral damage to the urban infrastructure. Such facilities also offer significant tactical military value since they are located at key intersections, command the high ground in an areas, and/or are so well built that their construction affords defenders an unusually high degree of protection. Thus, the decision to place weapons in “off limits” facilities may be dictated as much, or on some occasions more, by tactical military necessity as by political considerations.
Lesson 28: Rigorous communications security is essential. Overall IDF communications security was generally good, although a few lapses did occur. In part this was due to the way-spread use of encrypted communications equipment and employment of a double-cipher system. Additionally, the IDF changed codes daily and prearranged changes in radio frequency. Conversely, the IDF regularly monitored Syrian and PLO communications because neither practiced rigorous communications security because the PLO and Syrians made extensive use of commercial telephones throughout the urban areas of Lebanon. Commercial facilities provided instant communications for those forces, but also enabled the IDF to identify PLO locations and plan responses to orders intercepted over commercial phone lines.
Lesson 29: Snipers were very cost effective. The PLO actively employed snipers, even though its people received little formal training and were not equipped with specialized equipment. Nevertheless, PLO snipers delayed IDF operations in Sidon out of proportion to the resources they had invested in such operations. Similarly, the Syrians used snipers very effectively to block Israeli advances in the southeastern suburbs of Beirut. The IDF came to view snipers as being extremely valuable for psychological reasons as well. Even if they did not kill large numbers of the enemy, their presence forced Israeli opponents to keep their heads down and put a higher level of psychological stress on enemy personnel. In addition, the Israelis believe that sniper teams were a valuable source of intelligence, since for much of their time, they are patiently observing enemy actions.
Lesson 30: Explosive ordnance disposal teams are essential in urban areas. Israeli explosive ordnance disposal teams inspected captured weapons caches, either destroying them or recommending their evacuation. They also performed their traditional function of neutralizing “dud” munitions (such as unexploded sub-munitions) and clearing bobby traps.
Lesson 31: Armored forces cannot operate in cities without extensive dismounted infantry support. The IDF, because of its traditional bias in favor of armor, often tried to use armor without proper infantry support. It soon discovered, however, that unaccompanied armor strikes were almost always more costly in lives and equipment than operations in which armor was supported by dismounted infantry. Thus, by the siege of Beirut, Israeli tanks almost always entered battle with infantry support to suppress man-portable anti-tank weapons.
Lesson 32: Direct-fire artillery can be a valuable tool in urban combat provided one does not care about collateral damage. The IDF made extensive use of point-blank, direct-fire artillery, especially 155mm self-propelled howitzers, during the fighting in Beirut in a technique called “sniping”. The much heavier 155mm high explosive projectiles were found especially effective in reducing strong-points and reinforced buildings; in some cases, causing the entire building to collapse. The need to employ self-propelled artillery in a direct-fire mode was partly due to the inability of available HEAT and APFDS tank rounds to penetrate concrete structures and to an absence of suitable HE-fragmentation rounds for tank guns.
Lesson 33: Small unit leadership was critical to Israeli tactical success. IDF doctrine endows small units like companies with the authority to operate with substantial independence throughout the battle zone. Thus junior officers were trained to exercise discretion and to adapt to operational circumstances without involving superior officers. These were important attributes since urban conflict, by its very nature, places a considerable premium on small units operating independently in a tactically fluid situation.
Lesson 34: Tanks are central to Israeli urban warfare doctrine. The centrality of the tank in Israeli tactical doctrine led the IDF to examine how tanks could best be employed in cities while at the same time guarding against their recognized vulnerabilities. IDF doctrine also emphasized that the shock value of tanks in cities could sometimes compensate for a lack of dismounted infantry support. Despite this predisposition for using unsupported tanks in cities, the IDF moved to using combined arms tactics during the siege of Beirut where the tank was judged the single most valuable weapons for suppressing enemy fire. It should also be noted that the Israelis lost few tanks in urban fighting. It is unclear whether this modest loss rate was due to extensive use of infantry support to suppress anti-tank fire, superior design characteristics, or poor PLO anti-tank tactics.
Lesson 35: Night operations are very difficult in urban terrain. The Israeli inventory included a variety of passive and active night-observation devices, light-enhancement devices, and tank-mounted searchlights. Nevertheless, night operations were very limited due to a shortage of night vision devices. (This shortage may explain why the Israelis used the headlights of armored personnel carriers and illumination rounds to capture Beaufort Castle in a rare night operation.) The relative absence of night operations was also due, in part, to the need for troops to rest in highly stressful urban battle conditions. Israeli commanders did, however, use the cover of night to move toward a target undetected, but waited until daylight to attack PLO positions.
D. Technical Lessons:
Lesson 36: Small arms, although not decisive, played a disproportionate role in the outcome of urban battles. Fifth-five percent of IDF casualties were attributed to small arms fire.
Lesson 37: Individual flak jackets significantly reduced Israeli casualties. Israeli forces were equipped with flak jackets that were light, easy to close, and higher than most standard military protective vests. Israeli after-action surveys of the number of hits on flak jackets (hits that otherwise would have penetrated the body of the wearers) indicates that casualties would have been 20% higher without the use of protective vests.
Lesson 38: Smoke enhances survivability in urban situations, but carries significant operational drawbacks. Israeli forces found smoke very effective in the battle for Sidon in reducing losses. The Israelis came to believe that smoke was effective between 100-300 meters in preventing PLO use of RPGs and light weapons against advancing forces. On the downside, smoke often caused as many problems as it solved. That is, smoke was found to impede visual communication among attacking Israeli forces, taxed the driving skills of vehicle operators, and slowed the overall rate of advance. Perhaps these drawbacks to using smoke were why the IDF made relatively little use of smoke during the siege of Beirut.
Lesson 39: Mortars were highly regarded by all sides, but had limited effectiveness. Many participants placed a great emphasis on the value of mortars, especially as a psychological weapon. Also, some believed that mortars were particularly useful in urban situations because their high angle of fire. Despite these perceptions of the participants, it appears that the Israeli 60mm and the 81mm small infantry mortars were largely ineffective since their high explosive projectiles could not, in most cases, penetrate roofs. The heavier Soviet 120mm mortar was much better since it often penetrated roofs. Additionally, the Syrians found the Soviet 240mm towed mortar highly effective for cratering roads as well as for gutting the top 1 to 3 stories of buildings. Finally, mortars were extensively used to fire smoke and illumination rounds.
Lesson 40: Machine-guns may be more valuable than assault rifles for urban combat. Syrian experience in urban warfare in Lebanon suggests that machine-guns, especially heavy machine-guns (12.7mm) were far more useful than assault rifles. Aside from their greater rate of fire, rounds from heavy machine-guns were better at penetrating many concrete and cinder block structures than rifle ammunition -- a very important consideration in built-up areas.
Lesson 41: Air defense guns are valuable for suppressing ground targets. The IDF found that M163 Vulcan 20mm anti-aircraft guns were very useful in urban settings because the Vulcan has sufficiently high elevation to target the upper stories of buildings. Secondly, the Vulcan offered a high rate of fire which was very effective in suppressing snipers and intimidating opponents. These views of anti-aircraft weapons were shared by Israel’s opponents as well. As a result of earlier experiences in the Lebanese civil war, standard Syrian tactical doctrine called for employing an anti-aircraft section of ZU-23 23mm cannons with a tank battalion when operating in an urban environment. The Syrians concluded that ZU-23s have a “devastating effect” when employed against the outside walls because they “denude structures with their high rates of fire.” Similarly, the PLO also employed anti-aircraft guns in a ground-support role.
Lesson 42: Commercial off-the-shelf technologies were employed for military purposes. The PLO produced self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery by mounting Soviet ZPU-1/2/4 14.5mm heavy machine-guns and ZU-23 23mm autocannons on light commercial trucks. Additionally, the PLO depended heavily upon commercial UHF hand-held radios made by Motorola, Telefunken and RACAL as well as Japanese-made VHF communications equipment for urban operations.
Lesson 43: Remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) can provide real-time intelligence, but analysts have considerable difficulty interpreting it correctly. The Israelis employed RPVs to gather real-time intelligence on the movement of people within cities, the state of the battlefield, and for immediate attack assessment. On-board TV cameras relayed the pictures to ground stations where they could be analyzed or passed on. Such RPV-generated photos, however, only gave vague and contradictory data on troop movements in built-up areas. Photo interpreters also frequently misinterpreted the purpose of particular facilities and could only make estimates after this function had changed. This was in part because the PLO learned to shelter many of its activities as well as to adopt confusing and covert patterns of movement. All of this led to a significant degree of mistargeting in Beirut as well as the need to use area or multiple strikes. The photos from RPVs were quite good, however, for pinpointing major pieces of equipment like anti-aircraft defenses.
Lesson 44: Helicopters are not suited for urban combat. The Israelis made virtually no use of helicopter gun-ships in cities, apparently fearing that they were too vulnerable to anti-aircraft weapons and ground-fire. Helicopters were only widely used in cities for transporting men and materiel from rear areas to just behind the front lines.
Lesson 45: Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) are omnipresent and very effective weapons in urban combat. The PLO issued RPGs on a wide scale, although training in their use was often poor. PLO forces were equipped with one RPG per every 3-6 fighters. PLO-fired RPGs had little success against the Israeli Merkava tank, but forced the IDF to stop using M113 armored personnel carriers and trucks near the front line. RPGs were more widely used as general purpose weapons for attacking troops in buildings, behind barricades, or for harassing fire. The RPG was particularly useful since it was well suited to urban terrain. Fields of fire were seldom more than 300-500 meters, making such short-range weapons adequate. In addition, the rocket propelled grenade, although not optimized for destruction of concrete or cinder block, was more effective than small arms fire.
Lesson 46: Armored bulldozers are critical assets in urban combat. IDF combat engineers used armored bulldozers to clear barricades (some of which were mined) as well as other obstructions which slowed IDF operational tempo. Bulldozers were also used to smother bunkers, establish firing positions, widen and grade roads, and to create alternative avenues of advance to by-pass the urban infrastructure.
Lesson 47: Lightly protected armored personnel carriers are of limited value in urban terrain. Israeli infantry moved mostly on foot in cities because the lightly protected M113 armored personnel carrier was found wanting in several respects after initial operations in Tyre. PLO ambushes of Israeli columns with RPGs caused extensive casualties, in part because of the tendency of the M113’s aluminum armor to catch on fire after being hit by anti-tank weapons. In some IDF units, men became so frightened at the possibility of RPG induced fire that they simply walked next to them or rode outside rather than risk being burned to death. By the time of the siege of Beirut, armored personnel carriers were only used to carry supplies to advancing troops, always stropping at least 100 meters behind enemy lines. Besides the vulnerability of M113s to RPG fire, the IDF found them unsatisfactory for urban warfare because of their: (1) limited ability to provide suppression fire -- their machine-guns lacked sufficient elevation to use against upper stories of building; (2) extreme vulnerability of crews serving out-side mounted machine-guns to sniper fire; and (3) inability to maneuver in narrow roads and allies of cities and refugee camps.
Lesson 48: Some Israeli equipment was modified while in the field to counter enemy tactics and equipment. Lacking an adequate infantry transport vehicle for urban situations, the IDF fell back on several field-expedient solutions. For example, the unusual configuration of the Merkava tank, with its rear mounted turret, provided one option. This tank had been designed for rapid ammunition resupply through a pair of rear doors. By removing these ammunition racks, about 10 troops could be carried in cramped quarters. The Merkava was also used as an improvised armored ambulance to extract wounded infantry using the same method. The IDF also adapted an armored engineering vehicle called the Nagma-chon. This vehicle had a large compartment in the center to carry engineering troops, but could be used as necessary for moving infantry. It was relatively invulnerable to RPGs because its glacis and superstructure were protected by Blazer reactive armor. Additionally, the Israelis equipped some armored personnel carriers with add-on passive spaced-armor for more protection.
Lesson 49: Dissatisfaction with the survivability of combat infantry vehicles led to significant technological improvements after the war. One of the outcomes of the war in Lebanon was the IDF decision in the early 1990s to build a heavy armored infantry vehicle, the Achzerit, based on surplus T-55 tank hulls. About 250 Achzerits were build as a supplement to the M113 armored personnel carrier, especially in urban combat situations. The Achzarit weights 43 tons and carries a crew of two plus 10 infantrymen. It is armed with a Rafael OWS remote control machine-gun station plus two 7.62mm manually-operated FN machine-guns. Additionally, the Achzarit carries an internally-mounted 60mm mortar for use against man-portable anti-tank weapons. The M113 also underwent a series of upgrades to improve its survivability to RPGs and to make it more suitable for urban terrain. With about 4,000 M113s in service, the IDF had no choice but to improve the M113 rather than replace the fleet with a more suitable urban assault vehicle. After the war the IDF developed an improved add-on spaced armor based on Rafael’s TOGA applique armor. This was a carbon-steel, lighter-weight, perforated applique mounted to the sides of the M113’s hull and front. Not completely, satisfied with the TOGA’s performance against RPGs, the Israelis developed two more passive armor packages. Finally, in 1996, the IDF fitted their M113s with a reactive armor package.
Lesson 50: Accurate and up-to-date maps are essential for successful urban operations. Recognizing the importance of up-to-date maps, the IDF took great pains to assemble accurate and highly detailed maps for the Beirut operation. Besides conventional surface maps, the IDF also was able to obtain maps of the sewers and underground tunnels from their Lebanese allies. Conventional maps were also supplemented by photo mosaic maps created from aircraft and RPV reconnaissance missions which were highly valued because of their timeliness and detail. In spite of extensive efforts to develop accurate maps, urban navigation still remained difficult as units easily became lost in unfamiliar settings or were prevented from recognizing key landmarks by smoke or dust in the air.
Lesson 51: Cluster munitions are very effective in cities, provided one is not concerned about collateral damage. The Israelis found that cluster munitions, including both air-dropped CBU bombs and artillery-fired DPICMs, were very effective in city fighting. In the case of artillery, conventional ammunition usually struck the upper stories of buildings, causing little damage below whereas DPICMs dropped their payload into the streets below. Conversely, cluster munitions had little impact if the opponent had already reached shelter since DPICMs had little penetration capability against concrete and cinder block. Therefore, cluster munitions were found to be most effective when used in quick, short-duration time-on-target strikes and least useful in prolonged barrages where the defenders could take cover in buildings. Cluster munitions had a significant downside as well. The residue of unexploded sub-munitions posed problems for friendly forces occupying an area and especially for returning civilians.
The MOUT Homepage Hot Links:
|OPERATIONS 1||OPERATIONS 2||TECHNOLOGY|
|COMMENTS||SIGN GUESTBOOK||VIEW GUESTBOOK|