New IDF information offensive against Hizballah

An Associated Press report this morning indicates that the Israeli Defense Forces have launched a new information offensive against Hizballah.

The IDF has taken journalists to the the northern “border” [though there is no agreed border as yet] between Israel and Lebanon, and shown what the IDF claims is evidence that “Hezbollah is moving fighters and weapons into the villages of south Lebanon, building up a secret network of arms warehouses, bunkers and command posts in preparation for war. The Israeli military has begun releasing detailed information about what it calls Hezbollah’s new border deployment, four years after a cross-border raid by its guerrillas triggered a 34-day war … Neither side has signaled that another war is imminent, but the Israelis’ unusual openness about what they claim to know of Hezbollah’s preparations seems to have two goals: to show the reach of their intelligence, and to stake their claim that if another war breaks out and many civilians die, it will be because Hezbollah placed its armaments and fighters in their midst. Israel’s military says Hezbollah has changed strategy since the last war, moving most of its fighters and weapons from wooded rural areas into villages. It says the aim is to avoid detection and use to civilians for cover if war erupts”. This is reported here.

This, as we reported earlier on this blog, is exactly what the spoon-fed Israeli television + other media has been reporting for at least a year, if not more — obviously based on privileged background briefings from the IDF.

It has spooked some of my dear Israeli friends, who believe it as an absolute truth, and who dismiss any scepticism as “naive”. They have argued with me that this is clear and irrefutable evidence, the purest proof, that Israel is under constant threat of attack from people who are hell-bent and determined to “kill all the Jews [Israelis]”.

Israeli officials and their supporters mount regular campaigns accusing the Palestinians of incitement.

But, there is incitement from the Israeli side, too, which goes unchecked.

[Meanwhile, tension from Lebanese officials denouncing Israeli attempts to assert claims for newly-discovered gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean — one of which is over 100 km off Israel’s coast, despite the fact that Israel has given no official international or domestic of its claims, which would require ratification that Israel has not yet made of the UN Law of the Sea Convention with its provisions for Exclusive Economic Zones and extended continental shelves etc. — have faded into the background, in this new round of propaganda. Both Lebanese and Israeli officials have said they would forcefully defend their respective claims to these gas deposits. But media and public attention has been diverted to Blue Line pecuniae and minutiae.]

The AP article just published this morning reports that “In an interview with The Associated Press on Mount Adir, a hill overlooking the border, an officer from the military’s Northern Command pointed through the summer haze at the village of Aita al-Shaab. One of its southernmost buildings, a white structure housing mentally handicapped children, is a Hezbollah lookout post, the officer said. Several guerrilla command posts are in civilian buildings in the center of Aita al-Shaab, she said, with several dozen fighters able to move among houses through underground tunnels. The military would not allow her name to be used because of the sensitivity of her job. The village also houses a network of warehouses holding arms trucked in from Iran via Syria, she said, some in stand-alone structures and some in smaller stashes in garages, basements and buried under backyards. The officer said the guerrillas now have 5,000 fighters operating in the buffer zone between the border and the Litani River — a strip ranging from 5 kilometers to 30 kilometers (3 miles to 18 miles) wide — which is supposed to be free of militant activity under the 2006 cease-fire [n.b. – unless approved by the Lebanese government]. In late 2009, Nasrallah said Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal stood at 30,000. Israel says it’s now about 40,000. Israel’s intelligence probably comes from surveillance flights over Lebanese territory, spy satellites [n.b. – these overflights are Israeli violations of UNSC resolution 1701, upon which the 2006 cease-fire depended]. But the military provides no proof of its claims, saying that could compromise its sources, and the peacekeeping force says it sees no evidence of new military infrastructure. Hezbollah officials did not respond to requests for comment on Israel’s accusations. It’s difficult to independently confirm the allegations on the ground”.

AP also noted that even before the August 3 firefight along the Blue Line between the IDF conducting “routine maintenance” and Lebanese Army forces who had fired warning shots after UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, asked the IDF to hold off, “In July, looking to build its case that Hezbollah is digging in among civilians, the military released maps, photographs and a 3-D simulation of the streets and houses of another Lebanese town, Khiam. The simulation shows one arms storeroom, a squat, freestanding building colored red, located 130 meters (150 yards) from a school, colored blue. A map on the military’s Web site purports to pinpoint 12 arms storerooms and three command posts in the town”.

According to AP, “UNIFIL, the international peacekeeping force, ‘has not found any evidence of new military infrastructure in its area of operations’, said spokesman Neeraj Singh. ‘Only on a few occasions, UNIFIL found armed elements in the area with personal weapons like AK-47s’. While saying UNIFIL had made ‘significant progress’ in helping the Lebanese army secure the south, he acknowledged that the peacekeepers are barred from searching private property, where the Israelis say much of the evidence of the guerrillas’ presence would be found. Some indications of Hezbollah activity in the south have surfaced unintentionally. When a building at Khirbet Silim exploded on July 15, 2009, peacekeepers identified it as an actively maintained Hezbollah arms warehouse. Another storehouse blew up in October, the Israelis say, and in December, according to Singh, peacekeepers caught a “group of individuals” with about 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of explosives. UNIFIL’s performance has implications beyond south Lebanon. If the Israelis turn out to be right about the Hezbollah buildup, it will undermine their trust in international forces to police other volatile areas, such as Gaza and the West Bank, under a peace treaty”.

This AP report can be read in full here.

This reported IDF information campaign targetting Hizballah and accusing it, effectively, of holding Lebanese civilians as human shields in the southern part of Lebanon [which the IDF occupied from 1976 until May 2000] is very like the parallel Israeli campaign which continues against Hamas in Gaza.

The IDF information campaign also comes at a time when the UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon is reportedly about to issue indictments against Hizballah officials for the February 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s then-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri — for which the Syrian leadership was held responsible. Four Syrian military officials were held in the UN Tribunal’s custody for four years on the basis of questionable legality before being released for lack of evidence.

The information campaign adds credence to theories of imminent regional conflict — of which rumors have resurfaced annually since Israel’s massive military attack in the summer of 2006 in response to a Hizballah operation against an IDF unit operating along the Blue Line [in an area which Israel insists is theirs, but which Lebanon apparently disputes]. Israel has since renamed the 2006 reprisal attack “The Second Lebanon War”.

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