Is Full-Scale Invasion of Lebanon Necessary to Dislodge Hezbollah?

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This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," July 20, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: All the airstrikes and all the shelling have not been able to dislodge Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon, nor destroy all of its missiles.

Is a massive invasion necessary to get the job done? Let's ask Aaron Cohen, the former Israeli Defense Force counterterror commando. He's currently managing director for IMS Security, a security and anti-terrorist training company.

So, Mr. Cohen, what is the next move? Do the Israelis — are they kind of forced to put in ground troops to deal with Hezbollah, or can they continue to do it from the air?

AARON COHEN, FORMER IDF COUNTERTERROR COMMANDO: I think Israel needs to continue doing what they are doing, which is basically feeling out the Hezbollah, feeling out their capabilities and forcing their hand.

We saw in the past, over the last 20 years in Lebanon, Israel needed to maintain some type of buffer. The fact is that you can't compare the 1,000 or so rockets that are falling on Israel a day to what was falling on Israel, you know, over the last 20 years, up to October — or up to 2000, before Barak pulled out. You can't compare the two. I mean, Israel has to continue with the airstrikes. They have to continue with special operations. And they will continue to do this with a tremendous amount of selectivity.

But it's important for people to know, John, Israel could crush Hezbollah. They could crush them in one day, I believe. But the reason why they don't is because they aren't punitive. They're not interested in killing as many civilians as possible.

Hezbollah is firing at civilians. Israel has a much more complex, selective game to operate on, and that's what they're continuing to do, aggressively with speed.

GIBSON: Then explain the numbers. It's three, four, five times casualties on the Lebanese/Hezbollah side as on the Israeli side.

COHEN: Well, the reason why Israel is obviously ahead on the numbers is because Israel has an incredibly modernized air force, probably one of the finest of the world. And Israel was there for 20 years. They know the territory. They are familiar with all these places in southern Lebanon.

GIBSON: What happens if the Israelis go in by ground? Are they falling into an ambush?

COHEN: If Israel goes in by ground, which they may have to, they are falling into a situation that's going to involve casualties, but again, Israel knows the price they need to pay for their security. Whether it's an ambush or not — I don't believe it is — but I believe it's going to be hard fought and the reason why is because they haven't been there for a while. And they need to stretch their legs out. But once Israel is in there, Israel and its military know that they have a tremendous capability because they are familiar with the area. So it's going to be a question of time until they start to neutralize.

GIBSON: All right. Aaron Cohen, a former Israeli Defense Force counterterrorism commando, thanks very much.

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