'Israel releases map detailing hundreds of Hezbollah sites in Lebanon'
Map obtained by the Washington Post reveals that Israeli intelligence officials believe that the 550 underground bunkers identified have been stocked with weapons transferred from Syria since the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Israeli military officials have provided a map detailing nearly 1,000 sites and facilities monitored by the Hezbollah militant group in southern Lebanon, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
Israeli intelligence officials believe that the 550 underground bunkers identified have been stocked with weapons transferred from Syria since the 2006 Second Lebanon War, according to the report. The map obtained by the Washington Post also details 300 surveillance sites and 100 other facilities Israel believes belong to Hezbollah militants.
The map indicates Israel's deep concern regarding relations between Syria and Hezbollah, according to the Washington Post, which cites Israeli officials as having said in interviews that most of Hezbollah’s weapons are secretly transferred from arms depots near Damascus to facilities in southern Lebanon.
The Washington Post surmised that in releasing the map, the Israel Defense Forces was making a preemptive bid to dispel condemnation of any future Israeli attacks on civilian areas marked in the map.
A senior Israeli commander told the Washington Post that Israel's interest in providing those details was "to show the world that the Hezbollah organization has turned these villages into fighting zones."
In response to the report, the U.S. State Department said: "Our concern about Hezbollah’s activities, including in south Lebanon, is well known. It is logical that Israel shares this concern."
The White House recently denied a report that the U.S. is mulling a dialogue with Hezbollah. The U.S. has made clear that it does not see Hezbollah as an autonomous player, separate from ambitions of Iran and Syria, or their assistance.
The topic of the weapons transfers from Syria to Hezbollah has been raised in Congress on several occasions over the past year. Since the anti-government protests began in Syria, U.S. officials have officials sent an ambiguous message to Damascus, condemning the violence.
The U.S. has stressed, however, that it does not view Syrian President Bashar Assad in the same light as Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi and has said it was not planning to intervene in the unrest just yet.
The U.S. administration is at crossroads now with regard to its engagement with Syria and the possibility that Assad will change his policies and deepen his alliance with Iran and Hezbollah.