Sunday, July 22, 2007

IDF: Hizbullah moving rockets inside s. Lebanese villages

Hizbullah guerrillas have moved most of their rockets in south Lebanon among civilians in villages in an apparent attempt to avoid detection by Israel and UN troops, IDF officials said Sunday.

The new moves are part of Hizbullah's reorganization after the Second Lebanon War, the officials said. During the summer's war, Hizbullah fired almost 4,000 rockets at Israel.

While Lebanon criticized the IDF for targeting civilian areas during the war, Israel said Hizbullah was to blame for operating among civilians and putting them at risk.

Last summer, many of Hizbullah's rocket batteries were located in unpopulated rural areas, where the guerrillas dug networks of tunnels and fortifications, the officials said. But the army's new intelligence indicates that those positions had now largely been abandoned in favor of populated villages, which provide better cover for the group's activities. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

The UN-brokered cease-fire that ended the war expanded UNIFIL, the international peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, to 13,000 troops, entrusting it with ensuring that Hizbullah was not rearming near the Lebanon-Israel border.

Yasmina Bouziane, a UNIFIL spokesman in Lebanon, refused to comment on the Israeli charges.

A Hizbullah official in Beirut also refused to comment on the allegations. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said only that in the past Hizbullah guerrillas fired rockets at Israel from valleys and mountainous areas and not from inside villages.

The officials said Hizbullah's postwar efforts also included the construction of new fortifications north of the Litani River, farther from the Israeli border and out of UNIFIL's jurisdiction.

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