Jerusalem – In the most significant development in southern Lebanon since the end of the war in 2006, Hezbollah is building a new line of defense north of the Litani River, where UNIFIL has no authority.
The Web site of the “Lebanese Forces” party reports that Hezbollah has built a new “defensive square” stretching for hundreds of kilometers, from Marj Ayoun to Jezin. According to the Web site, the territory has become a “closed military area.”
Hezbollah terrorists are apparently constructing military fortifications in this area, using caves and digging tunnels, in order to form a new line of defense. From positions north of the Litani, the Katyusha rockets of Hezbollah can easily reach large centers of population in Israel, while their larger rockets can reach as far as Haifa or even Tel Aviv.
The London-based newspaper El Shark al-Awsat on Saturday published a commentary claiming that Iran and Syria have encouraged Hezbollah to use chemical weapons against Israel.
Hezbollah Leaves Dahiya Quarter
Until last summer, the southern suburb of Dahiya in Beirut served as Hezbollah’s stronghold. Inside the Shiite neighborhood was the “security square,” which was the command and control center of the Shiite terrorist organization. Hezbollah’s main headquarters, as well as the personal bureau of its leader, Nasrallah, were located in that same small area.
During the war, the Israeli Air Force pulverized the neighborhoods, focusing on the “security square.” Hezbollah is now working hard on a wide-scale reconstruction project at an estimated $600 million. The target date for completing the reconstruction has been set for January 2009.
Hezbollah officials said that immediately after the war, a decision was made not to keep the “security square” in Dahiya but rather to turn it into a large public park. From now on, Dahiya will not include any official headquarters of the organization but rather only secret locations.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah received vigorous words of encouragement from former Israeli Knesset member Azmi Bishara, who left Israel several months ago in the wake of serious charges of collaboration with the enemy in wartime.
“Hezbollah armed itself over the past year, and it appears stronger than ever now,” Bishara said during a tour of southern Lebanon. He accused Israel of having perpetrated a deliberate massacre of Lebanese civilians, saying, “The massacre did not happen by chance but was rather the result of deliberate policy.”
Report: Hezbollah Rockets Targeted Civilians in 2006 War
“During the 2006 war, Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets indiscriminately and at times deliberately at civilian areas in northern Israel, killing at least 39 civilians,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released yesterday.
HRW said that Hezbollah’s justifications for its attacks on Israeli towns – as a response to indiscriminate Israeli fire into southern Lebanon and to draw Israel into a ground war – had no legal basis under the laws of war.
The 128-page report, “Civilians under Assault: Hezbollah’s Rocket Attacks on Israel in the 2006 War,” presents more than 20 case studies based on extensive field research in northern Israel into rocket attacks that killed or injured civilians in Jewish, Arab and mixed areas.
It also draws evidence of Hezbollah’s intent from more than 100 Hezbollah communiqués and declarations. “Hezbollah’s explanations for why it fired rockets at Israel’s civilian population utterly fail to justify these unlawful attacks,” said Sarah Whitson, director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division.
In their statements, Hezbollah leaders repeatedly threatened to attack Israeli towns and settlements in retaliation for Israeli attacks on Lebanese towns, a rationale that under international humanitarian law does not justify deliberate or indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Hezbollah also claimed responsibility for specific attacks on Israeli towns, even as they voiced support for the principle of sparing civilians.
In the words of HRW, “Statements by leaders in the military chain of command indicating intent to fire indiscriminately toward civilian areas are evidence of war crimes.”
Hezbollah rockets, some carrying anti-personnel steel spheres, repeatedly hit populated areas in northern Israel.
HRW found that numerous rockets were fired in which there was no apparent legitimate military target in the vicinity at the time of the attack. For example, hundreds of rockets struck inside Karmiel, Nahariya and Kiryat Shmona, cities containing no significant military assets. In other cases, a military objective was located in the vicinity, but HRW concluded that “the inaccurate rockets it used were incapable of distinguishing between the two, making the attack indiscriminate.”
Hezbollah rockets killed at least 39 Israeli civilians during the conflict and injured 101 more. They struck three hospitals, an elementary school in Kiryat Yam and a post office in Haifa.
Hezbollah stated that it targeted and hit Israeli military objectives more than is known and blamed Israeli censorship for covering up the extent of such attacks.
However, according to HRW, “Hezbollah attacks on legitimate military objectives, whatever their extent, do not justify the attacks that were indiscriminate or deliberately targeted civilians.”
Many rockets that hit the most densely populated coastal areas were 220-millimeter rockets packed with thousands of six-millimeter steel spheres that are released in an explosion. Incapable of inflicting serious damage to hard military structures or materiel, they penetrate human flesh within a wide radius of the warhead blast. Hezbollah also fired into civilian areas cluster munition rockets loaded with submunitions that are designed to disperse, on impact, 3-millimeter steel spheres over a wide area. The Israeli police says that it found 118 rocket strikes with cluster munitions.
HRW urged Hezbollah, as a matter of practice and doctrine, to cease all attacks that deliberately target civilians as well as those that cannot discriminate between civilians and combatants and to renounce publicly the argument that attacks on Israeli civilians are permissible as reprisals for Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians. The report calls on the government of Lebanon “to interdict the delivery of rockets to Hezbollah so long as it uses them, or subscribes to a doctrine that would permit use of them, to fire deliberately or indiscriminately into civilian areas.”
In its conclusion, HRW “urges the governments of Syria and Iran not to permit the transfer to Hezbollah of materiel, including rockets that Hezbollah has used in violation of international humanitarian law.”
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007