Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sick of saying it...Israeli drones document missile buildup near border in S. Lebanon

TEL AVIV -- Israeli military intelligence has identified a Hizbullah weapons network throughout Shi'ite villages in southern Lebanon, officials said.

"We believe Hizbullah has at least 15,000 rockets and missiles within 10 kilometers of the Israeli border," an official said. "The smuggling of these weapons takes place on a nearly-daily basis."

The Israeli assessment was said to have been the result of intensive air and ground monitoring of Hizbullah movements throughout southern Lebanon, officials said. Over the last four months, Israel has tracked and recorded Hizbullah weapons movements over the Litani River to scores of villages near the southern Lebanese border.

Lebanese troops patrol along the border with Israel in the southern village of Kfar Kila, in August. AFP/Mahmoud Zayat
On Oct. 13, the Israeli military released a video that showed the aftermath of an Oct. 12 explosion of a suspected Hizbullah weapons warehouse in a village east of the Lebanese city of Tyre. The video, taken by an Israel Air Force unmanned aerial vehicle, showed suspected Hizbullah operatives bringing Katyusha rockets and other weapons out of a destroyed three-story building owned by a senior Hizbullah operative.

One of the Hizbullah rockets appeared to measure four meters. Officials said this could have been a variant of the Iranian-origin Fajr-4, with a range of 70 kilometers and fired by Hizbullah during the 2006 war with Israel.

"The video filmed by the UAV, directed to the site after the explosion, clearly shows a large number of people arriving at the scene and loading Katyusha rockets and other weapons onto trucks," the military said on Oct. 14. "Later, they conceal the weapons and drive them to another weapons storage facility in the village of Dir Kanun A-Nahar, were they were unloaded."

The officials said Hizbullah could be operating as many as 300 military warehouses that contain anything from light ammunition to long-range rockets.

Officials said Israel informed the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon of the alleged Hizbullah warehouse. Hours after the explosion, the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL were seen at the destroyed building.

This was the second time the Israeli military released a video of an alleged Hizbullah weapons warehouse. In July, the military showed footage of Hizbullah operatives removing weapons from a warehouse that exploded in the southern Lebanese village of Khirbet Salim.

"The Hizbullah terrorist organization continues to receive deadly weapons from its sponsors, members of this organization," Israel's envoy to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, said on Oct. 14. "At the same time, Hizbullah builds a military infrastructure in the midst of the civilian population south of the Litani River. Its operatives and affiliated civilians openly threaten UNIFIL, obstructing it from discharging its mandate."

Officials said Hizbullah receives weekly shipments of rockets, missiles, assault rifles and ammunition from Syria. They said Iran has financed the weapons, much of it which comes from Syrian Army arsenals.

Despite repeated Israeli complaints, UNIFIL has failed to intercept Hizbullah weapons shipments. Officials said UN peace-keeping patrols have encountered increasing hostility from Hizbullah-controlled Shi'ite villages.

"UNIFIL will not put its troops in danger in any confrontation with Hizbullah," the official said.

Israeli surveillance system in Lebanon uses UAVs and sensors

NICOSIA -- Lebanese security sources said a secret Israeli surveillance system in southern Lebanon combined unmanned aerial vehicles with tiny sensors that could monitor the movement of Hizbullah operatives and weapons.

They said the sensors were fitted with explosives to self-destruct if found by Hizbullah or the Lebanese Army.

"These do look like some sort of espionage device," United Nations special coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams said.

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon has confirmed Lebanese assertions that Israel had planted sensors near key sites in southern Lebanon. UNIFIL said several of the underground sensors, believed planted during the Hizbullah war in 2006, exploded on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18 between the Lebanese villages of Hula and Meis Al Jabal.

"Preliminary indications are that these explosions were caused by explosive charges contained in unattended underground sensors which were placed in this area by the Israel Defence Forces apparently during the 2006 war," UNIFIL said on Oct. 18.

The sources said the sensors enabled UAVs to survey Hizbullah movements and the flow of weapons to the Iranian-sponsored militia. They said the Israeli network also contained listening devices on telephones throughout southern Lebanon.

"The sensors could both provide live-stream video as well as listen to conversations and radio communications," a Lebanese security source said.

The use of sensors was said to have stemmed from the failure of UAVs to see through the morning fog along the Israeli-Lebanese border. In contrast, the sensors were believed capable of transmitting images in any weather.

The Israeli surveillance system was said to have relayed data to a command and control headquarters in the Israeli border community of Manara. Manara overlooks much of southern Lebanon, particularly the Shi'ite sector.

The Lebanese Army has warned that it would block Israeli overflights in the south. In mid-October, the army began opening heavy machine gun fire toward the Israeli military tactical UAVs.

The sources said the UAVs were also believed to have detonated camouflage explosives in southern Lebanon. One such bomb exploded in October near suspected Hizbullah operatives.

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