Hezbollah readying for urban war in southern Lebanon
IDF aerial photo marking alleged Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon, released on July 7, 2010
Photo by: IDF
Israel’s military on Wednesday offered evidence of what it says is a growing threat from Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, using aerial images to highlight the militants group’s activities in towns and villages close to the Israeli border.
In a briefing to journalists, Israel Defense Forces Colonel Ronen Marley revealed previously classified photographs to show what he said was a unit of 90 Hezbollah militants operating in the village of Al-Hiyam, where they were storing weapons close to hospitals and schools.
Hezbollah is establishing itself with increasing strength in the villages,” Marley said. “Every day they are collecting significant intelligence on our forces along the border and every day they are engaged in digging, building and laying communications infrastructure to prepare themselves for war.”
In the four years since Israel fought a month-long war with Hezbollah, the IDF had collected data on thousand of targets to be bombed by Israel in the event of renewed hostilities, Marley said.
In the last war, much of the fighting took place on open scrubland, he said. But the deployment of United Nations forces in southern Lebanon had forced Hezbollah into built up areas where troops from the international UNIFIL force have no authority.
The IDF believes Hezbollah has an arsenal of some 40,000 short and medium range rockets stored in towns and villages south of the Litani River, with many of the weapons stored in private houses.
Hezbollah also has hundreds of longer range M-600 rockets capable of striking major Israeli cities, Marley said.
The weapons are operated by a force of some 20,000 armed Shi’a Muslim militants, around a third of which have undergone combat training in Iran, available for action at short notice.
Marley said every Shi’a Muslim village had a detachment of between 30 and 200 fighters, whose task would be to hold of the advance of enemy troops into built-up areas in the event of an Israeli invasion.
Hizbullah Embedding Thousands of Fighters in Villages Near Israel
Geostrategy-Direct – The Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah was said to have deployed up to 5,000 fighters along the Lebanese border with Israel.
The Israeli military has collected evidence of a massive Hizbullah operational presence in Shi’ite villages along the Israeli-Lebanon border. The Hizbullah operatives, engaged mostly in reconnaissance, were said to be based in homes, schools and hospitals.
“Hizbullah is establishing itself with increasing strength in the villages,” Col. Ronen Merli said. “Every day, they are collecting significant intelligence on our forces along the border, and every day they are engaged in digging, building and laying communications infrastructure to prepare themselves for war.”
In a briefing on July 7, Merli released the first reconnaissance photographs of the Hizbullah presence. The photographs, said to have been relayed to the United Nations, showed what the military said was a Hizbullah unit in the southern Lebanese village of Al Khiyam, located 20 kilometers north of the Israeli city of Kiryat Shemona.
Merli, commander of Brigade 300, based along the northwestern border with Lebanon, said Al Khiyam contained at least 90 Hizbullah operatives. The colonel said Hizbullah has been storing weapons, including rockets, within 50 meters of hospitals and schools.
“We see Hizbullah’s hold over the villages, and we view infiltration into Israel as the primary threat,” Merli said.
The declassified military photographs were said to have been taken over the last few months. Officials said Al Khiyam marked a Hizbullah regional center in the force’s presence in nearly 200 villages from the Israeli border until Lebanon’s Litani River.
Officials did not identify the weapons in Al Khiyam, which the military said was shown with huge mines and improvised explosive devices. But they said Hizbullah, with up to 60,000 missiles and rockets, has acquired hundreds of M-600 rockets, a variant of Iran’s Fateh-110 rocket, with a range of up to 250 kilometers.
Hizbullah has also increased its force by up to four-fold since the war against Israel in 2006. Officials said Hizbullah has organized a force of 20,000 fighters, about a third of them graduates of combat training courses in Iran.
Officials said Hizbullah controls virtually every Shi’ite village in southern Lebanon. They said each village contains between 30 and 200 Hizbullah operatives, many of them trained in weapons, command and control and IEDs.
Since the 2006 war, Hizbullah was said to have restructured its ground forces. Officials said Hizbullah has established three divisions, with at least 5,000 troops each.
The Israeli-Lebanese border was said to come under Hizbullah’s Southern Division. The Israeli military has assessed that the division contained 30,000 missiles and rockets and 5,000 fighters.
“It is important to show the world that Hizbullah has built up its military infrastructure inside villages with the aim that we will kill the maximum amount of civilians in a future conflict,” a senior military officer said. “We want to warn that if we are attacked by Hizbullah, this might happen.”
Officials said Hizbullah has been under firm control of Iran. They said the Israeli military was prepared for an imminent strike.
“An event can take place today, or a year from now,” Merli said. “I am ready for it to happen by surprise. We are operating in different ways to thwart any event. If one should take place, we will know how to handle it.”