Israel Warns of Harsh Strike against Hizbullah, Accuses it of Using Civilians as Human Shields
Israel warned of a new conflict with Hizbullah, vowing to strike the party’s strongholds which could result in a large number of civilian casualties. “The civilians are living in a military compound,” The New York Times quoted a senior Israeli military official as saying. The official, who spoke at military headquarters in Tel Aviv on the condition of anonymity, stressed that the Jewish State “will hit Hizbullah hard, while making every effort to limit civilian casualties as much as we can.”The official stressed that Israel doesn’t “intend to stand by helplessly in the face of rocket attacks.”The newspaper reported that Hizbullah is allegedly building up its firepower since 2006, revealing that maps and aerial photography obtained from Israeli military officials indicate that the party has moved most of its military infrastructure into the Shiite villages of southern Lebanon and around their perimeters.
Israeli officials continuously accused Hizbullah of using the civilians as a human shield. “Israelis are blunt about the implications: They will not hesitate to strike at those targets, so southern Lebanon will most likely be the scene of widespread destruction,” the NY Times said. The Lebanese civilians casualties “should not be considered Israel’s fault,” officials told the newspaper.
The Israeli military had recently identified about 400 military sites and facilities belonging to Hizbullah.“We already made it clear in 2006 that people in the villages do not have immunity if we have intelligence that they intend to fire at Israel,” Amos Yadlin, who was Israel’s chief of military intelligence from 2006 to 2010 and is now the director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said. The daily quoted an Israeli military expert as saying that the attack will be in three phases. “First, it would strike without warning at targets that pose the greatest threat, then it would call for civilians to evacuate southern Lebanon to facilitate ground troops to move in.”Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned on Tuesday that his country will not engage in any militarily confrontation with any state in the region unless the red lines were crossed, in particular in the Golan Heights, which is partly occupied by Israel, or if certain arms were transferred to Lebanon.
Israel fought a devastating 33-day war against Hizbullah in 2006 that cost the lives of 1,200 people in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
Hizbullah, Syrian Army Seize Control of Strategic Tallet Moussa Hill
Hizbullah and the Syrian army seized control Wednesday of the strategic Tallet Moussa hill in Syria’s Qalamoun, as they pressed on with a major offensive against militant groups in the border region. “The Syrian army and the fighters of the resistance (Hizbullah) have taken the strategic Tallet Moussa hill in Qalamoun,” Hizbullah’s al-Manar television reported. It said the allies have also made “major advances in their pursuit of takfiri groups in the mountains of Qalamoun, east of the Lebanese border.”Syrian forces and Hizbullah fighters are now in control of “more than 50 percent of the outskirts of Ras al-Maara,” al-Manar added.
It said the advancing forces continued their onslaught Wednesday on the heights of the strategic Mount al-Barouh, where “tents belonging to the militants were torched and two military vehicles were destroyed, which left several of them dead or wounded.”Hizbullah and the Syrian army also seized control of “strategic” Southern Aqabat al-Faskh hill west of Ras al-Maara, the Tallet al-Harf and Dahr al-Hawa hills, and “the entire al-Khashaat heights which lie in Lebanese territory on the border with Syria,” al-Manar added. It noted that the al-Khashaat area lies east of the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Nahle and “overlooks several border crossings and a large chunk of Arsal’s outskirts.”
Sky News television meanwhile said five Hizbullah fighters were killed in Wednesday’s clashes in Qalamoun. According to LBCI TV, Hizbullah is now in control of “40 square kilometers of Lebanese territory east of Nahle’s outskirts, from Aqabet al-Bayda in the south to Qornet Abdul Haq in the north.”Last week, Hizbullah and Syrian forces controlled the strategic heights of Assal al-Ward in Qalamoun. Some 3,000 Islamist-led militants are in the Qalamoun region, a Hizbullah commander recently said. He said Hizbullah and Syrian troops surround the Qalamoun from the north, the east and the south, as well as part of the west, squeezing the militants who remain there. Hizbullah cites fear of militants sweeping through Shiite and Christian villages in Lebanon’s Bekaa as one of the main reasons for its involvement in Syria.
The group’s critics, however, argue that the group’s intervention has acted as a magnet for the extremist groups that have launched deadly bomb attacks inside Lebanon.