Israel publishes 'proof' of growing Hizbullah arsenal


ISRAEL HAS published detailed intelligence information that military chiefs say is proof of a massive build-up of Hizbullah firepower deep inside the Lebanese villages close to Israel’s northern border.

Israel says that UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which ended the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war and banned the transfer of rockets and weapons to Hizbullah has been largely ineffective. Israeli intelligence says the Shia group now has an arsenal of more than 40,000 rockets supplied via Syria and Iran and thousands of fighters deployed along the border.

As an example, Israeli intelligence officials showed reporters maps and aerial surveillance images showing specific buildings in the village of Al-Hiyam that Israel says are being used as military facilities for weapons and missiles.

Col Ronen Marley revealed previously classified photographs to show what he said was a unit of 90 Hizbullah militants operating in Al-Hiyam, where they were storing weapons close to hospitals and schools.

“Hizbullah is establishing itself with increasing strength in the villages,” said Col Marley.

“Every day they are collecting significant intelligence on our forces along the border and every day they are engaged in digging, building and laying communications infrastructure to prepare themselves for war.

Lieut Col Avital Leibovitch, an Israeli military spokesperson said: “We are talking about more than 100 villages that have become military camps for Hizbullah and we see that civilians in these villages have become Hizbullah’s human shields if there is war in the future.”

There are fears that growing tensions along the Lebanese border could spark a repeat of the month-long 2006 Lebanon war in which more than 1,100 Lebanese and 159 Israelis were killed as Israeli troops invaded southern Lebanon and Hizbullah rained up to 300 rockets a day on northern Israel.

That war was triggered by a Hizbullah cross-border attack on an Israeli patrol in which eight soldiers were killed and two captured, accompanied by co-ordinated rocket fire on nearby Israeli towns. The two soldiers were returned, dead, two years later in return for a Lebanese prisoner.

“I don’t think Israel has any interest in launching a war against Hizbullah – just the opposite,” said Prof Gerald Steinberg, head of the project on conflict resolution at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv.

“This reminds me very much of spring 2006, when Israeli military commanders held a series of briefings for foreign diplomats in which they analysed the Hizbullah threat in very similar terms and warned that Israel would not sit idly by if attacked.

“Hizbullah failed to understand that message, and when it launched an unprovoked attack across the border in July 2006, the Israeli army unleashed the battle plan it had previewed. Later, Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah admitted that if he had heeded Israel’s warnings, he would not have started that war. This time, it looks like Israel is determined to dissuade Hizbullah from using its huge rocket arsenal again, and so the Israelis are sending this very clear deterrent message.”