Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hizbullah Building Political, Military Strength in Lebanon

by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

Hizbullah's military infrastructure and offensive capabilities in Lebanon have been rebuilt to the extent that they now eclipse levels from before the Second Lebanon War. Now, Hizbullah is intent on further building up its political and tactical strength. Therefore, IDF analysts suggest, a conflict in the north is unlikely in the near term.

The IDF assessment is partly based on an interview with Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah, which was broadcast on Al-Jazeera television on Monday.

A senior IDF source said that the missiles currently in the Hizbullah arsenal have a range of over 70 kilometers. While that endangers the north of the country all the way up to northern Samaria, as was the case during the 2006 war, Nasrallah's televised threat that his organization could hit any point in Israel that it wants is empty boasting, according to the IDF source.

At the same time, the senior IDF source noted that official Syrian agents are aiding the Hizbullah in obtaining Iranian weaponry. "They are not smuggled, but weapons that are openly transferred as part of an entire industry," the IDF officer said, explaining that the weapons make their way to southern Lebanon "by unwritten agreement" with the
Syrian agents are aiding the Hizbullah in obtaining Iranian weaponry.
Lebanese army and "behind the back of UNIFIL." The presence of UNIFIL in the south has pushed Hizbullah activity into the region's villages, but not eliminated it. Meanwhile, Hizbullah is building up its military infrastructure north of the Litani River, outside the area of the UNIFIL mandate.

"Hizbullah exists," the senior military source said, "it has not disappeared and it is far from disintegrating."

Nasrallah's current objective is to reach an agreement with the Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, returning the Shi'a and other Hizbullah-affiliated politicians to the government. Such an agreement, allowing Hizbullah to continue to influence the Lebanese regime from within, will likely be reached by September, in the estimation of the senior IDF source.

Nasrallah's Interview
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah told an Al-Jazeera interviewer this week that his organization had missiles capable of reaching any target in Israel, "in Tel Aviv or anywhere else." According to Nasrallah, the longer-range missiles were already in Hizbullah hands during the Second Lebanon War last summer, but were left unused.

Nasrallah also claimed that Syria was ready for war with Israel last year, but Hizbullah objected to such an expanded conflict. However, he told Al-Jazeera, Syria is still maintaining war-readiness, as Assad feels that Israel is preparing to engage his country militarily. If so, Nasrallah warned, Syria may need to make its own first move.

Hizbullah Operative Nabbed
The General Security Services (GSS) revealed Tuesday that it arrested an Israeli woman last month who was working as an agent for Hizbullah. The unnamed Galilee resident was arrested when she returned from a visit to Jordan.

An indictment against the Hizbullah operative in a Haifa court stated that a fellow Jordanian dentistry student approached her in 2003 and asked her to smuggle cell phones and memory cards into Israel. The equipment was to be used in suicide bombing attacks. She ultimately refused that request, but then agreed to deliver a computer disc for Hizbullah.

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