Defense Officials: Renew Diplomatic Pressure on Syria as Hezbollah Rearms

Despite Israel-Syria talks, Hezbollah arms smuggling continues, group said to have 40,000 rockets.

Senior defense officials believe that Israel should resume diplomatic pressure to halt Syrian weapon transfers to Hezbollah.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak Thursday warned of the repercussions of the weapons smuggling, which he said are in violation of Security Council Resolution 1701 that led to the ending of the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Despite the indirect peace negotiations with Syria, the arms smuggling to Lebanon is continuing weekly, officers said. An officer told Haaretz that Israel should not demand that Syria cuts off its relations with Hezbollah, but focus on halting the arms smuggling in peace talks.

The clause referring to this in Resolution 1701 was never enforced by the international community.

Last week Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni resumed the demand to disarm Hezbollah. IDF officers do not see this is a realistic goal in the near future, and believe that Israel should focus on dealing with the open border between Lebanon and Syria.

Barak said at Labor's faction meeting Thursday that Resolution 1701 is gradually being eroded and Hezbollah "has doubled and perhaps tripled the quantity of its missiles."

Barak warned heads of state, foreign and defense ministers around the world of the "significance of disrupting the extremely delicate balance in Lebanon," and called on them once again to "enforce on Hezbollah all that appears in 1701."

On Wednesday, members of the security cabinet were told Hezbollah has an arsenal of 40,000 rockets ready to be fired at Israel, three times more than at the start of the Second Lebanon War.

The prime minister called Wednesday's meeting of the security cabinet to discuss what he said were violations by the Shiite Hezbollah of UN Resolution 1701 which ended the 34-day war.

The resolution called for the disarming of all militias - an allusion to Hezbollah as well as to Palestinian militant groups - and the prevention of illegal arms sales and smuggling operations in Lebanon.