Friday, January 22, 2010

Hezbollah moves long-range rockets to north Lebanon

By Haaretz Service and DPA Tags: Hezbollah 23/01/2010
Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah has moved its long-range-rocket sites deep into northern Lebanon, a move that threatens to broaden any future conflict with Israel into a war between the two countries, according to analysts quoted in the Washington Post on Saturday.

Hezbollah's redeployment indicates that the group's next clash with Israel is unlikely to focus on the border as in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, instead moving deeper into Lebanon, according to the Washington Post.

The group "has been fortifying lots of different areas," Judith Palmer Harik, a Hezbollah scholar in Beirut, told the newspaper. With UN and Lebanese forces "packed along the border," she said, "we are looking at a much more expanded battle in all senses of the word."
More than 10,000 United Nations troops patrol the border between Israel and Lebanon to enforce the cease-fire implemented after the 2006 war.
Hezbollah "learned their lesson" during that conflict, reserve Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash, a former head of IDF intelligence, told the Washington Post.

Farkash added that intelligence enabled the Israel Defense Forces to destroy Hezbollah's long-range-rocket launch sites in the first days of the conflict, and that, "the 'border' is now the Litani River," with Hezbollah's rocket sites possibly extending north of Beirut.

Hezbollah criticizes French FM comments condemning the militant group

Hezbollah on Saturday criticized French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner over his recent comments condemning the group and linking it to Iran.

"Israel is our friend, and if there was a threat to Lebanon, it will only come from a military adventure carried out by Hezbollah in the best interest of Iran," Kouchner reportedly told the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri during a visit to Paris on Friday.

"Kouchner's statement carried clear echoes for the Israeli voice and a full denial for France's history and its legacy in resisting aggression and occupation," said a statement by Hezbollah.

"This stance is an attempt to acquit Israel and to cover up its relentless violations of Lebanese sovereignty, the thing which represents a shield for its occupation and an encouragement for it to pursue its aggressions," Hezbollah said.

The statement refers to Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace, in breach of UN Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon.

The UN Security Council has listed 388 Israeli airspace violations on behalf of Israel against Lebanon, in its report last June.

Last week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Hezbollah to "avoid entering in conflict with us."

Israel has said that it will hold the Lebanese government responsible for any violations by Hezbollah of UN Security Council resolution 1701.

Barak reiterated that should Hezbollah carry out any attacks, Israel would retaliate against not just Hezbollah, but Lebanon and anyone else who helps Hezbollah.

Syria and Lebanon on high alert

Meanwhile, Syria and Hezbollah are on high alert in anticipation of an Israeli attack on Lebanon, the London-based A-Sharq al-Awsat daily reported on Friday.

According to the report, Hezbollah has been monitoring with caution the reinforcement of IDF troops along the Lebanon border.

Hezbollah's deputy secretary general, Naeem Kassem, said the group was preparing to retaliate although it had no proof of any such Israeli plans.

Late last year, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi warned Hezbollah guerrillas possess tens of thousands of rockets, some capable of reaching up to 300 kilometers within Israel.

These capabilities would put Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well cities much further south, into rocket range.

"There is a war in the Middle East between two camps, the extreme and the moderate, which is pushing Iran to take radical steps. Without Iran's support to finance weapons and terror groups they would be lacking the means available to them today," said Ashkenazi.

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