Israel images 'show Hezbollah hiding weapons in villages'
The Israeli military has published a series of aerial photographs of south Lebanon showing what it says is evidence of Hezbollah stockpiling weapons in towns and villages near the border.world Updated: Jul 08, 2010 14:33 IST
The Israeli military has published a series of aerial photographs of south Lebanon showing what it says is evidence of Hezbollah stockpiling weapons in towns and villages near the border.
Declassified images and intelligence maps appear to show what the military says are numerous bunkers and arms caches located in the middle of Al-Khiam village just four kilometres (two miles) north of the Israeli border.
One heavily marked up aerial photograph shows 15 buildings in the middle of the village's built-up area which the military says are being used as weapons stores, bunkers and operational headquarters for the Shiite militant group.
Also marked on the map are schools, hospitals and other public buildings, some of which lie just a few hundred metres (yards) from the alleged weapons caches.
The army says the images prove how, in the four years since Israel's 34-day war with Lebanon, Hezbollah has transformed more than 100 villages near the border into military bases.
"These maps and the 3D clip illustrate how Hezbollah stores their weapons near schools, hospitals and residential buildings in the village of Al-Khiam," an army statement said.
"They follow similar tactics in villages across southern Lebanon, essentially using the residents as human shields in gross violation of UN Resolution 1701," it said, referring to the truce resolution that ended the 2006 war.
Colonel Ronen Marley, an officer stationed along the border, said around 90 Hezbollah militants were operating in Al-Khiam.
"Hezbollah is establishing itself with increasing strength in the villages," Colonel Ronen Marley was quoted as saying by the Haaretz daily.
"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."
Intelligence reports indicated there were between 30 and 200 militants deployed in every Shiite village, he said.
The army said the photographs appeared to show a shift in tactics by Hezbollah, which, during the war, largely stored its arms in rural areas or forests along the border.
"In the four years since then, Hezbollah has pursued a tactic of moving their weapons into civilian villages, essentially institutionalising the tactic of using human shields on a large scale," the military said.
In 2006, much of the fighting took place on open scrubland, but since the end of the war, Hezbollah militants have gravitated towards built-up areas out of the reach of peacekeepers of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, Israel says.
Israeli estimates that Hezbollah has an arsenal of 40,000 short- and medium-range rockets, which are being held in towns and villages across the south -- a significant rise from the 14,000 rockets held by the group in 2006.
It says the stockpile includes hundreds of longer-range rockets, some with a range of
more than 300 kilometres (116 miles), capable of reaching major Israeli population centres.
The military believes Hezbollah forces in south Lebanon number 20,000, more than a third of whom have undergone combat training in Iran.
July 12 marks the fourth anniversary of the start of the deadly war between Israel and Hezbollah, which destroyed much of Lebanon's major infrastructure and killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mainly soldiers.