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In recent weeks Hezbollah has moved hundreds of missiles from storage sites in Syria to bases in eastern Lebanon, the French newspaper Le Figaro reported yesterday. According to the report, Hezbollah moved the missiles over fears that a successor to the failing regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad could sever ties with the organization.

The French daily cites a Western expert who the paper said closely follows relations among Hezbollah and Iran and Syria. The expert is quoted as calling Syria the backyard through which Iran sends weapons to Hezbollah, and said efforts have been made to to send as much weaponry as possible to Lebanon before the fall of the Assad regime.

According to the report, Western intelligence agencies in recent weeks have identified wide-scale movement of trucks over the Syrian-Lebanese border in the Bekaa region carrying rockets and missiles from storage facilities on the Syrian side. Le Figaro said the operation included sophisticated efforts at camouflage and that the United States and Israel have recently stepped up their monitoring of Iranian weapons smuggling.

The report quoted a "Western expert" as saying that intelligence agencies have monitored the movement of trucks from the Syrian border to Lebanon's Bekaa region containing long-range Iranian-produced Zilzal, Fajr-3 and Fajr-4 missiles.

Hezbollah had been storing these missiles in depots in Syria. Some of the depots are secured by Hezbollah personnel while others are located on Syrian military bases. According to the report, the movement of the missiles has been problematic, particularly due to concerns that Israel and other nations are monitoring the trucks with spy satellites.

"Hezbollah fears Israel will bomb the convoys," Le Figaro reported.

The paper added that Hezbollah has moved the missiles using means of camouflage more sophisticated than it has used before.

The report also noted that Syrian intelligence and the Al-Quds force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard recently established a joint operations room at the international airport in Damascus. This step was taken as a result of the lessons learned when an Iranian arms plane was intercepted in Turkey in March. According to the report, the plane, which was on its way from Iran to Syria, was forced to land in Turkey due to a tip American intelligence passed to Turkey. A search of the plane uncovered missiles, mortars and other weapons.

Secret visit

Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, director of Military Intelligence, secretly visited Washington and New York about three weeks ago to meet with White House officials and ambassadors from United Nations Security Council member states over developments in Syria and Lebanon. A knowledgeable Western diplomat said Kochavi warned of the danger of Syrian armaments reaching Hezbollah in the event Assad's regime fell.

Last year Haaretz reported on Hezbollah rocket training over the Syrian border. Now the organization seems to believe its weapons are more secure in Lebanon than in Syria, due to the unrest there.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has recently said on several occasions that Assad's regime would not survive for more than a few more months. Senior Israeli officials told Haaretz last week that Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards have an active role in putting down Syrian unrest.

According to international media reports, on several occasions in the past three years Israel has considered attacking convoys transporting weapons from Syria to Lebanon.

Barak has repeatedly said that Israel would take a grave view of arms transfers into Lebanon and would consider taking action against such moves. UN Security Council Resolution 1701, passed after the Second Lebanon War, barred weapons smuggling from Syria to Lebanon but the international community has done little to address the issue.