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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Hezbullah attack planned to take pressure off Iran?

Robert Fisk suggests that last month's series of explosions at a Hezbullah ammunition storage facility at Khirbet Silim may hint at a Hezbullah action against Israel to take pressure off Iran.
Just old Israeli ammunition, it suggested, left behind from the Israeli-Hizbollah war of 2006? Hmm. Or, the Israelis left the ammunition there when they retreated in 2006. That's very definitely a "ho hum". Israel's hopelessly small 3,000-strong invasion force never reached within six miles of Khirbet Silm at that time. Which is why delegates to the UN in New York have been saying that the whole shebang was a clear breach of Resolution 1701, which clearly stipulates that no armed group may store ammunition between the Litani River and the "Blue Line" that effectively marks the Lebanese-Israeli border.

Four days after the explosions, on 18 July, UN peacekeeping troops and their Lebanese army colleagues gingerly moved in to inspect the site, at which point, "local villagers" started chucking stones at the French, Belgian and Italian blue hats, lightly wounding 14 of them.

According to the UN, some of these "villagers" were recognised as Hizbollah members, a view that was strengthened when groups of men were observed by the wreckage, heaping still-unexploded ammunition into wooden boxes for transportation out of the village. The shells and rockets they did leave behind turned out to date from the 1990s, but by then the whole affair had gone global.


Worse still, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's friends in Iran have been talking about the events in southern Lebanon. Is a new Hizbollah offensive being planned to take the heat off the crackpot President of Iran? And the Lebanese suspect that there's a far more dramatic dilemma forming between Obama and Netanyahu: that Netanyahu is threatening to let fly at Iran if Obama really forces him to end all Jewish colonisation in the West Bank.

The Lebanese live by conspiracies, but even the mayor of Khirbet Silm, Issam Majed, 47, an engineer, has an eloquent line by way of explanation. Sitting in the neatest, cleanest municipality building in all of southern Lebanon, this bespectacled bureaucrat declares: "When the Israelis fire at us with artillery or from the sea, the UN soldiers count the violations and that's it ... Then an explosion happens and it goes all the way to closed meetings of the UN Security Council in New York."

So why were those villagers suddenly throwing stones at the UN troops? "The UN arrived with tanks and armoured vehicles ... They flew helicopters all the time low over the village and frightened the women and children and the old people. Then they started to demand to enter people's homes. Foreign troops should not do this. Even the Lebanese army have to apply to the courts to do this."

Now this was a bit much. After 40 spectacular explosions inside its zone, the UN was highly unlikely to up sticks to the local judiciary in Tyre to ask for permission to hunt for armed men. And down at their base at Naqqoura, UN officials have all the right documentation for cynical reporters. According to its mandate, the UN soldiers "cannot search private houses unless there is credible evidence of a violation of Resolution 1701, including an imminent threat of hostile activity emanating from that specific location". So there you have it. The Israeli air force daily over-flies southern Lebanon – breaching, of course, Resolution 1701 and, presumably, looking for the arms hide-outs that no one finds – but the moment a house blows up at Khirbet Silm, you are going to have a Leopard tank at your front door.
Is the entire village an ammunition dump? Conceivably.

One thing seems clear: Because the Olmert-Livni-Peretz government was afraid to defeat Hezbullah decisively three years ago, we will have to fight them again in the not-too-distant future. Hopefully the lesson of Olmert's mistakes has been learned.


At 8:08 PM, Blogger Andre (Canada) said...

Two words about Southern Lebanon: carpet bombing.


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