Ground Offensive?

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Multiple reports from Israeli media that there is a sudden push by ground forces into Lebanon. Jerusalem Post reports a three-pronged offensive:

The security cabinet approved early Tuesday morning expanded ground operations in Lebanon, while the IDF, under the assumption that only a few days were left for the operations against Hizbullah, was already gearing up Monday night for a massive ground incursion into Lebanon on three different fronts, utilizing the Golani, Nahal and the Paratroopers infantry brigades.

The plan, senior IDF sources said, was to utilize the last remaining days of the operation, which they estimated would be over by week's end, to push Hizbullah back as far north as the Litani River in central Lebanon. The plan was pending approval by the cabinet, which was meeting late Monday night.

"An extensive ground operation could destroy the Hizbullah terror infrastructure there," a high-ranking IDF source said. "This is our opportunity to strike at Hizbullah."

Defense Minister Amir Peretz rejected calls for a cease-fire on Monday. "This is a difficult and painful fight but we can overcome it," he said during a speech in the Knesset plenum. "We cannot agree to a cease-fire that will go into effect immediately."

In addition to the attempt to push Hizbullah north to the Litani, the IDF is also working on carving out a two-kilometer security zone along the northern border, under which all of the Hizbullah outposts there would be completely razed and guerrillas would not be allowed to return to the borderline area.

Hizbullah fired two Katyusha rockets at Kiryat Shmona on Monday. No one was wounded, but fires broke out as a result of the explosions.

At the moment, the IDF said that it did not intend to send the thousands of reservists who had been called up under emergency orders into Lebanon. Sources said the reservists would be used the earliest by Wednesday, although the decision was dependent on decisions made at the late-night cabinet meeting.

According to intelligence assessments, the areas that would be invaded in eastern and western Lebanon were loaded with Katyusha rocket launchers, weapons warehouses and Hizbullah headquarters.

Meanwhile Ha'aretz is reporting that Syria is preparing it's armed forces:

Syrian President Bashar Assad called on his army Monday to increase readiness to cope with "regional challenges."

The president's comments came during an annual address to the military but also as Israel and the militant group Hezbollah entered their 20th day of fighting in neighboring Lebanon.

Travelers from Syria have reported that some reservists have been called up for military duty – a sign that Syria is concerned the fighting in Lebanon could spill over. The Syrian government has not made any announcement about calling up reserves.

The anniversary of the founding of the army comes this year in view of international circumstances and regional challenges that require caution, vigilance, preparation and readiness," Assad said in a statement carried by the official Syrian Arab News Agency.

Assad called on all formations and units of the armed forces "to intensify efforts in training and to work for more preparations and raise readiness," according to the statement.

"We must be aware that every effort and every drop of sweat exerted in training now will spare a drop of blood when the time comes," he said.

Assad vowed earlier Monday to continue support to the "Palestinian and Lebanese resistance more than ever."

Syria's official news agency, SANA, also quoted him as saying that the
situation in the Middle East especially in Palestine and Lebanon "requires cautious and preparedness and readiness."

Syria so far has stayed out of the Lebanon conflict, but Israeli air strikes have increasingly come closer, with repeated raids on the Beirut-Damascus highway that links Lebanon and Syria.

Ha'aretz is also running a headline that the IAF is striking in the Bekaa valley (headline only, no story behind it yet). Something big is happening here.

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