TEL AVIV, Israel, July 21 (UPI) -- Israel appears to be bracing for a long conflict against Hezbollah after it called up reserve troops for what may be an imminent ground operation.
Israel Radio said the army command Friday issued immediate summons for reserve troops under Order No. 8, which gives the defense minister the right to call up reservists in exceptional cases such as wars and military operations necessary for national security.
Israeli daily Haaretz said the reservists will be deployed on the border with Gaza and in the West Bank so that regular forces would be shifted to the northern border on the front with Lebanon.
The call up of reservists follows fierce fighting inside the Lebanese border territory since Thursday with die-hard Hezbollah fighters.
Israel expanded its ground operations in south Lebanon in which thousands of troops are taking part, especially in the region of the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras and Israel's adjacent Avivim region in the eastern sector of the border.
Israel said six of its troops have been killed and 17 injured in the fighting.
Haaretz said "the forces that will join the northern front will take part in a large invasion of south Lebanon villages."
The army command revealed that there is no intention to re-occupy Lebanese territory for a long period, but only to search and destroy Hezbollah weapons, notably rocket and missile launchers, in southern villages.
Haaretz quoted a high-raking army officer as saying the Israeli army moved from defensive acts to assault operations aimed at ending katyusha attacks on Israel.
"This necessitates sending ground forces into Lebanon as we cannot solve the problem by air attacks," the unnamed officer said.