24 July 2007
By Yoav Stern and Amos Harel,
Haaretz Correspondents Last update - 22:19
Hezbollah claimed Sunday that it is able to strike at every part of Israel,
and had the same capability during the Second Lebanon War last summer.
The leader of the Iranian and Syrian-backed organization, Hassan Nasrallah,
made the comments to Qatari-based Al-Jazeera satellite television, in an
interview to be aired in its entirety Monday.
"Even in the months of July and August 2006 there was not one place in
occupied Palestine that we could not reach, every point and every corner,"
Nasrallah said. "I stress that we can do this today as well."
The 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah erupted following the July 12
abduction of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers by the militant group and
the deaths of eight others.
Meanwhile, Israeli military sources say that Hezbollah has moved its
short-range Katyusha rockets into built-up areas in southern Lebanon, mostly
in Shi'ite villages, to hide them from the United Nations Interim Force in
Since its reinforced deployment after the cease-fire last August, UNIFIL has
carried out extensive searches in southern Lebanon's open brush areas, where
Hezbollah built up extensive underground fortifications and set up launch
pads for its rocket attacks against Israel.
In recent months, more than 90 percent of these areas have been searched,
and UNIFIL patrols have found and destroyed Hezbollah arms, including
Katyusha launchers, Katyusha rockets and explosives.
Details of the UN operations in southern Lebanon are in reports sent from
UNIFIL to the organization's headquarters in New York.
During searches after the war, 33 such areas - which the IDF euphemistically
terms "nature reserves" - were located.
These included bunkers and underground tunnels, some of which are
sufficiently complex to include sub-systems, all built by Hezbollah south of
the Litani River during the six years following the IDF withdrawal from
southern Lebanon. Most of the rockets fired against Israel during the war
last year were launched from the "nature reserves."
Military Intelligence had information on the location of most of these
areas, but not about the extent of the fortifications built by Hezbollah
Throughout the war the General Staff - and particularly Northern Command -
restricted the offensive operations into these areas following the initial
encounter July 19, 2006, during which two soldiers were killed in a
confrontation with Hezbollah in the "nature reserve" code-named Shaked near
the town of Maroun al-Ras.
The UNIFIL searches have revealed that the condition of the bunkers and
fortifications in the "nature reserves" has deteriorated - suggesting that
Hezbollah fighters have not tried to return to these permanently. However,
it is also clear that some Hezbollah fighters do occasionally return to the
area to maintain some of the fortifications.
As an alternative to the "nature reserves," Hezbollah is trying to transfer
significant numbers of its rockets into built-up areas, mostly in the dozens
of Shi'ite villages south of the Litani.
Most of the organization's long-range rockets are kept north of the river,
but there is a continuous effort to smuggle missiles into southern Lebanon,
controlled by UNIFIL.
Israel has recently issued a number of warnings to Lebanon that if in the
future there is an outbreak of hostilities and Hezbollah launches rockets
from built-up areas, the IDF will not hesitate to bomb - and even totally
destroy - urban areas after it gives Lebanese civilians the chance to flee.
UNIFIL's efforts have touched a raw nerve with Hezbollah, and Israeli
analysts have interpreted the recent attack against a UN armored vehicle, in
which six soldiers of the Spanish battalion were killed, as being directly
linked to the pressure the peacekeepers have put on the extremist Shi'ite
Nasrallah's visit to Damascus on Thursday, where he met with Syrian
President Bashar Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was
something Israeli intelligence was not aware of in advance
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