IDF: Hezbollah missiles deployed in South Lebanon
Hezbollah has managed to deploy large numbers of Katyusha rockets and antitank missiles in southern Lebanon, senior Israel Defense Forces officials have told Haaretz. These weapons in Shi'ite villages have been undetected by UN observers, the officials say.
They say the weapons have been smuggled south of the Litani River despite the increased presence of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) since the end of the Second Lebanon War.
The sources add that Hezbollah's reluctance to use the weapons since the war ended a year and a half ago reflects the strong blow the IDF dealt the militant group and that Israel's deterrence has not been diminished.
At the end of the war the Lebanese army was deployed in the south of the country in accordance with Security Council resolution 1701. There is also an increased UN presence. The IDF has said Hezbollah has systematically smuggled arms to the area in trucks marked as delivering civilian supplies. Most of the weapons are estimated to have arrived from Iran via Syria.
Hezbollah has also had to deal with a ban on rebuilding its string of outposts along the border with Israel that were destroyed during the war. To gather information on the IDF, the organization has sent groups of agents disguised as media teams to film activity on the Israeli border.
Since the war ended, UNIFIL has completed probing Hezbollah strongholds near the border where the group had built an array of bunkers and camouflaged Katyusha rocket launchers. Hezbollah has now placed most of its launchers north of the Litani and has hidden a large number of them in Shi'ite villages south of the river. The group has managed to replenish its stocks of rockets and missiles depleted during the fighting. New missiles sent by Iran are capable of striking targets south of the Tel Aviv area, army officials say.
Amassing antitank missiles in villages south of the Litani shows that the organization thinks the IDF will not hesitate to launch a ground operation in the event of renewed hostilities. Massive use of such missiles would slow down any IDF advance into Lebanon. But the placement of such weapons in villages is also a weak point in Hezbollah's strategy and would lead to massive destruction of civilian areas in any fighting.
Many of the villages in the south have not yet been rebuilt. IDF top brass claim that a fear of destruction and the organization's difficulty in recruiting and training new fighters have dissuaded Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah from instigating limited attacks on Israel, as the group often did in the Har Dov area.
Though Hezbollah says only 250 of its members were killed in the fighting, Israeli intelligence estimates that some 600 died and another 1,000 were wounded.
"It's true that Hezbollah is raising its flag along the border," an IDF official said. "But in a year and a half not one of our soldiers on the border has sustained even a scratch. During the entire period only two rockets have been launched by an extremist group unaffiliated to Hezbollah," the official added.
"Of course, that may change tomorrow. Hezbollah, for its own reasons, has not changed its jihadist ideology that calls for our destruction, but refraining from launching attacks testifies to the blow it suffered during the war and, for now, it has refrained from launching a new round."