Hezbollah: IDF drill borne of 'frustration and despair'
Group's southern commander says will 'watch closely' Israel's civil defense exercise near Lebanon border.
Hezbollah's southern Lebanon commander on Saturday was quoted as saying the militant group will "follow closely" Israel Defense Forces drills planned for Sunday.
"Israel's military drill is not a testament of its strength but of its frustration and despair following its defeat in the Second Lebanon War," Hezbollah television al-Manar quoted Nabil Kauk as saying.
According to Lebanese security sources, Hezbollah has put its militants in a state of full alert ahead of Sunday's maneuvers.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora on Friday called on the Lebanese army to raise its alert level, fearing that Israel may exploit an upcoming major military exercise to violate his country's sovereignty, Israel Radio reported Saturday.
A widespread, week-long civil defense drill will begin in Israel on Sunday, starting at the weekly cabinet meeting with a briefing by the commander of the exercise, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai.
The operative part of the drill will commence on Monday. It will include, among other scenarios, a simulated missile attack on civilian areas - some with chemical warheads.
A statement by the IDF spokesperson said the exercise was not planned in relation to any current events.
Siniora asked United Nations peacekeepers tasked with monitoring the border, "to be careful" that Israel will not utilize its large-scale civil defense drill "to launch operations capable of increasing tension," a statement from his office said.
He also urged the Lebanese army to "be extremely vigilant and take the necessary measures to protect Lebanese civilians and face up to any Israeli violation."
Lebanese Army commander General Michel Suleiman also said that he had ordered his troops to raise alert and preparation levels in all army units until the end of the Israeli military drill.
Hezbollah's commander in south Lebanon, Nabil Kaouk, said that the guerilla group was closely monitoring Israeli activity along the border. He added that the civil defense drill is "not a testament of Israel's strength, but rather evidence of its frustration and despair," Israel Radio reported.
The Lebanese daily A-Safir quoted senior United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) officials as saying that Israel had asked the force to pass along reassuring messages to the Lebanese government to assuage any fears regarding an Israeli attack after the guerilla group Hezbollah and the Lebanese army began preparing for possible conflict.
The newspaper further reported that Israel made every effort to assure the Lebanese government that Israel has no intention of invading its territory as part of the drill.