Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Officials: Hizbullah hiding arms in dozens of villages

Thousands of weapons caches have been placed in homes scattered in 160 villages in southern Lebanon, senior defense officials said on Tuesday, a day after one such stockpile exploded in the home of a Hizbullah operative in Tayr Filsay, near Tyre.

On Tuesday, the IDF released video taken from an Israeli aircraft of the home, which belongs to Abdul Nasser Issa, a low-level Hizbullah operative.

The blast took place at around 8 p.m. on Monday, and an hour later Hizbullah men are seen carrying weapons out of the home and loading then onto a truck.

In the footage, seven men are seen carrying a four-meter-long device, thought to be a Katyusha rocket or launcher. Hizbullah is thought to have more than 30,000 rockets of various ranges and sizes.

The men took several hours to clear the home. For the first few hours, the area was sealed off by Hizbullah and the Lebanese army.

Contrary to media reports, Israeli defense sources said on Tuesday that no one was killed by the blast but that one person was lightly injured. The officials also dismissed Hizbullah claims that the explosion was caused by IDF ordinance left behind during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

The Israeli aircraft followed the truck as it drove about 4 km. to another village called Deir Qanoun al-Nahr. There, the truck pulled up at another home and the group of men unloaded the weapons.

"Hizbullah uses civilian homes to hide its weaponry," an IDF officer said. "This is a direct violation of UN [Security Council] Resolution 1701."

President Shimon Peres spoke Tuesday about the blast and said that Hizbullah had turned Lebanon into a "powder keg" that will - in the end - damage Lebanon.

"It is Hizbullah which is endangering Lebanon, not Israel, just as it is Hamas which is endangering the Palestinian people," Peres said.

"We have evacuated all of the territory and are now extending a sincere hand to the Lebanese people. Lebanon could have long since become the Switzerland of the Middle East. It is Hizbullah and Hamas that are preventing this economic flowering and peace and security for the region."

Hizbullah acknowledged that the home belonged to one of its members, but would not give any other information.

Hizbullah legislator Hussein Haj Hassan said Israel was exaggerating the incident, to "take advantage of it for political interests."

Michael Williams, the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, told reporters in Beirut that his mission was concerned about the incident.

"We are keeping a close eye on this because of its relevance to Resolution 1701 while waiting for the outcome" of the investigation by UN peacekeepers and the Lebanese army, he said after meeting with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.

Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev called on Tuesday for an investigation by UN peacekeepers on the explosion in Tayr Filsay.

In a letter of complaint sent to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the president of the Security Council, Le Luong Minh of Vietnam. Shalev said Israel has "considerable" reason to believe the house where the explosion took place served as an arms storage facility for Hizbullah.

In her letter, Shalev said that in the aftermath of the explosion, Hizbullah operatives sealed off the area and attempted to remove evidence.

"Only three months after the explosion of a Hizbullah arms depot in the village of Khirbat Silim, yesterday's explosion is another example [showing] that the Hizbullah terrorist organization possesses illegal weapons in Lebanon, south of the Litani River, in violation of Resolution 1701 as it builds a military infrastructure within the civilian population," Shalev wrote. "The aforementioned incidents leave no doubt regarding Hizbullah's modus operandi to place its military weapons and facilities in civilian villages and houses."

The UN Security Council is set to meet on Wednesday, where Palestinian and Arab diplomats are expected to focus on the Goldstone Report, which accuses Israel of war crimes during its offensive against Hamas in Gaza last winter.

Source: JPost

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