- Iranian generals “increasingly regular visitors to Lebanon” says Israel.
- Hezbollah hides weapons among civilians in southern Lebanon.
- Fears that Hariri report will implicate Hezbollah, bring civil war.
The buildup of rockets by Iran-backed Hezbollah is more substantial than media reports have suggested, The Israel Project has learned. In line with reportage, Israeli intelligence understands that Hezbollah has amassed in excess of 40,000 rockets in the immediate vicinity of the Israeli-Lebanese frontier.
More after the jump.
However, in Israel’s assessment the Shi’ite Hezbollah also has a considerable stockpile in other parts of Lebanon. The 40,000 weapons are located in hiding places in villages throughout southern Lebanon in contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701. The resolution, which led to the 2006 ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, calls for the Lebanese government to be the sole bearer of arms in the south of the country.
Israel fears Iran is playing an ever-larger role in Lebanon. There has been a noticeable increase in visits by Iranian military and political leaders over the last two years according to Israeli officials. Tehran is spreading its sphere of influence to include both Hezbollah and Beirut.
Hezbollah gets short- and long-range missiles in three main ways: by sea, by air and via the Syrian border. Iran and Syria are the main suppliers of Hezbollah’s weaponry, while Hezbollah has also obtained Russian rockets, in Israel’s estimation.
“Iran and Syria both pose significant conventional security challenges and these conventional challenges intersect with the asymmetrical threats posed by Hezbollah…whose rockets indiscriminately target Israeli population centers,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew J. Shapiro in July 2010.
The Lebanese border towns that face Israel are heavily Shi’ite. Hezbollah stores weapons in underground bunkers and in buildings among the civilians there. Public buildings doubly serve as Hezbollah lookout points.
United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is not allowed to enter private properties, making it difficult for UNIFIL to monitor weapons smuggling.
The Israel Defense Forces has published videos filmed by drones and from fixed positions showing explosions at three weapons depositories close to the frontier.
Israel is watching the border particularly closely at the moment fearing that Hezbollah may choose to launch rocket attacks in the next few weeks. Jerusalem believes it may do so in order to deflect attention away from the eagerly-anticipated publication of the findings of the U.N. inquiry into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
Reports have circulated implicating Hezbollah in the assassination. Drawing Israel into a military campaign Hezbollah believes would move attention quickly away from the Hariri report.