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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Israel stops Syrians from re-arming Hezbullah

Israeli commandos carried out a raid in Baalbek last night which thwarted a Syrian attempt to re-arm Hezbullah. The raid was carried out by the elite Sayeret Matkal (General Staff Reconnaissance Unit). One IDF officer was killed in the raid and two others were wounded, one seriously and the other lightly. Two Hizbullah gunmen were taken captive by the commando force.

Three Hezbullah gunmen were killed in the raid.

Baalbek is said to be the birthplace of Hezbullah and is located in the eastern Bekaa Valley some 100 kilometers north of the Israeli border. In an earlier raid in Baalbek, the Sayeret Matkal and Shaldag units took five captives after killing over 15 gunmen. A high-ranking IDF officer revealed last week that throughout the last month of fighting, commandos had carried out dozens of covert operations inside Lebanon.

Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora accused Israel of violating the cease-fire and said he would raise the matter with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. In a statement, Siniora said that "The landing carried out by the Israeli occupation forces today in the Bekaa was a flagrant violation of the cessation of hostilities announced by the Security Council."

The IDF said that the commandos entered Lebanon "to prevent and interfere with terror activity against Israel, especially the smuggling of arms from Iran and Syria to Hizbullah," and that the mission had been completed successfully. The IDF has said that it will continue to carry out operations in Lebanon until an 'international force' is in place.

According to Lebanese reports, two IAF helicopters dropped two Hummer jeeps near the village of Boudai, some 30 kilometers northwest of Baalbek. According to the reports, IAF aircraft provided air cover for the vehicles and even fired missiles at a Hizbullah headquarters nearby.

Clashes between the IDF troops and Hizbullah guerrillas ensued and the helicopters returned to the area and evacuated the vehicles and the troops. Lebanese media said Sheik Mohammed Yazbeck, a senior Hizbullah official in the Bekaa Valley and a member of the Shura council of the group, may have been the target. Yazbeck is a native of Boudai. Other Arab reports claimed that the operation was connected to the two abducted Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr threatened to halt deployment of Lebanese troops if the United Nations did not intervene against Israel. After meeting with UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, Murr said the UN official was traveling to Israel and would discuss the matter there. "We have put the matter forward in a serious manner and the UN delegation was understanding of the seriousness of the situation," he told reporters. "We are awaiting an answer."

According to DEBKAfile, Iran and Syria have used the halt in Israeli attacks since last Monday, Aug. 14, to send Hezbullah fresh weapons supplies, including rockets, in direct violation of the UN ceasefire and 1701 resolution imposing an arms embargo. No monitoring system is in place on the Lebanese-Syrian border.

Also since the truce, a group of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, including generals, has arrived to set up a forward command on the Syrian side of the Lebanese border. They have told Hezbullah to start reconstituting its southern Nasser Brigade which was damaged by Israeli forces and also serves the group as its short-range rocket unit.

During the week, Israel kept Washington abreast of the Iranian-Syrian re-supply operation and was informed that the Bush administration would not interfere if the Israeli government decides to destroy the incoming supply vehicles.

Hizballah used the media focus on the Lebanese army’s deployment to unobtrusively transfer the fresh weapons shipments from the Beqaa Valley and Baalbek to the south.

It is feared that the replenishment of Hizballah’s depleted weapons stocks presages a revival of attacks and the breakdown of the ceasefire which Israel accepted last Monday, Aug. 14.


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