BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Hezbollah refuses to comment on Israeli maps allegedly detailing its military sites

BEIRUT:  The Israeli military released a map detailing what it says are approximately 550 underground bunkers, along with 300 monitoring sites and 100 weapons storage facilities.

The Israelis have highlighted the location of the sites, saying that they are located near homes, schools and hospitals, to hammer home the argument that Hezbollah takes advantage of hiding among civilian populations.

A spokesman for the party contacted by The Daily Star said Hezbollah had “no comment” on the news.

The Israeli military website says the resistance has built up the sites since the July 2006 war, and claims that “Hezbollah militants have doubled in number since that time.”

The item re-states earlier estimates by Israeli officials and politicians that Hezbollah has an arsenal of more than 40,000 rockets, predicting that in the event of a new armed conflict, “Hezbollah will be able to launch between 500 and 600 rockets at Israel every day.”

The Israelis also posted a second map detailing what it said was a “main civilian center” for storing munitions, in the village of Khiam.

It added that “more than 100 Hezbollah militants operate in the village, including special forces ready for combat with [Israeli Army] soldiers.”

A military analyst, retired General Elias Hanna, told The Daily Star the item could be considered a case of “pinging the system,” to provoke Hezbollah into moving its positions in the south, as well as a message with multiple goals.

“It’s meant to delegitimize Hezbollah, as violating [United Nations Security Council Resolution] 1701,” which ended the 2006 conflict, Hanna said.

“They are saying: we know where your posts are, your command and control areas, and that you are near urban areas, so you have no right to hide,” Hanna said.

Hanna added that the Israelis were probably focused on warning Hezbollah against taking advantage of regional instability, after a recent spate of violence between Israel and Palestinian groups. He also speculated that the Israelis might be sending a message to Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati, who is seeking to form a government in which Hezbollah will be represented.

The Israeli army accused Hezbollah of “trying to distort the balance of power in Lebanon and return to full, routine militant activity in southeast Lebanon, similar to its activity levels just prior to the war in 2006.”

Separately, Hezbollah denied Thursday that it was involved in destabilizing events in Bahrain, which experienced violence last month between government forces and protestors demanding reform.

Hezbollah said that after its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, earlier expressed support for the anti-regime demonstrators in the Gulf country, it refrained from responding to the wave of condemnation for getting involved in the affairs of an Arab country.

“But the accusation of training [by Hezbollah of Bahraini opposition groups] or giving a military or security dimension to what is happening in Bahrain is something that we cannot remain silent about,” the party said in a statement.

“None of our Bahraini brethren has every requested security or military training from us,” Hezbollah said, reiterating its support for the popular protests and condemning the government’s “arbitrary repression” of demonstrators there.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 01, 2011, on page 2.

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