vrijdag 15 juni 2007

Hezbollah 'has stockpiled rockets' on Israeli border

Onder de ogen van de UNIFIL vredesmacht is Hezbollah sterker geworden dan voor de oorlog vorig jaar. Dit is niet alleen een bedreiging voor Israël, maar ook voor de Libanese democratie, die van de week weer een slag werd toegebracht met de liquidatie van een anti-Syrisch parlementslid.
Hezbollah 'has stockpiled rockets' on Israeli border
Uzi Mahnaimi Zarit, Lebanese border The Sunday Times June 10, 2007

HEZBOLLAH, the powerful Iranian-backed militia that fought the Israeli army last summer, has built a network of underground military bunkers under the feet of United Nations peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon close to Israel's border.

It has rebuilt its fighting capability and Israeli intelligence now estimates that it has stockpiled 20,000 rockets.

"Hezbollah will never leave southern Lebanon," said Shaul Mofaz, the former defence minister, last week. "It's now armed with rockets that could hit central and even southern Israel."

Hezbollah, which was forced to move away from the border as part of last August's ceasefire deal, has returned by stealth. "Since the Israeli forces left, Hezbollah has been building formidable military underground posts under the noses of the UN," said an Israeli intelligence officer.

Before last summer's war in Lebanon Hezbollah had more than 20 positions along the border. All were destroyed by the Israelis, who also killed several hundred fighters.

Soon after the ceasefire agreement Hezbollah began to rebuild its positions in Shi'ite villages close to the Israeli border.

"The entrance to an underground post is usually in the backgarden of a Hezbollah supporter," said one source. "The householder receives compensation for the use of his garden."

Modern equipment is used to sink the shafts, sometimes as deep as 70ft. Some bunkers are as wide as a football field, others can hold fewer than 10 fighters.

They are equipped with sophisticated communications equipment and many are believed to be connected by tunnels, limiting Israel's ability to destroy them from the air.

Since last August huge quantities of arms, including Russian-made antitank missiles, short- and long-range rockets, small arms, mines and ammunition have been smuggled into Lebanon from Syria and Iran.

Israeli military intelligence sources say there is particular concern over long-range Fatah-110 rockets that have been supplied to Hezbollah.

This rocket, with a 125-mile range and a 500lb warhead, is an improved version of a Chinese assault rocket, said Uzi Rubin, an Israeli missile expert. These rockets could reach Tel Aviv if hostilities resume.

Reports this weekend suggested that Israel may be willing to return the Golan Heights to Syria in a peace deal that would require Damascus to cut ties with Hezbollah and other militant groups. But Brigadier General Yosef Baidatz, a senior military intelligence officer, told the Israeli parliament's foreign and defence committee last week that Syria was preparing for war.

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