By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz and Pinchas Sanderson, www.haaretz.com
Arab reports indicate that Hezbollah is preparing to arm its rockets with chemical warheads and to build extensive fortifications. Defense Minister Ehud Barak blames the Syrians, while Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asks the United Nations to do something.
“[UN Security Council] Resolution 1701 is being violated. Hezbollah continues to get stronger with the ongoing and intimate assistance of the Syrians,” according to Defense Minister Barak. Speaking at a meeting of the Labor party’s Knesset representatives on Monday, Barak said, “The delicate balance that exists on the northern border should not be violated on the two-year anniversary of the Second Lebanon War. We should make an explicit statement: Resolution 1701 did not work, it is not working, and all indications are that it will not work in the future. It is a failure.”
Adding further weight to Defense Minister Barak’s declaration is an article in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyasa, which reported Monday that Hezbollah has acquired chemicals needed to make weapons such as nerve gas or mustard gas from North Korean suppliers. The Lebanese terrorist organization is allegedly preparing to arm its Katyusha rockets with such chemical warheads. Echoing Barak’s claims, the Kuwaiti paper also stated that the assistance of Syria and Iran has been crucial in Hezbollah’s efforts to acquire chemical weapons capabilities. The Al-Siyasa report was based on intelligence provided to the Kuwaiti paper by Syrian opposition figures in the United States.
Other Arab sources also indicate Hezbollah is entrenching itself for another attack on Israel. The organization is reportedly stockpiling “truckloads” of building materials, such as steel and concrete, in order to restore and expand the terrorists’ network of fortifications in southern Lebanon.
Beirut-based Dalal Steel Industries, a leading manufacturer of steel-reinforced buildings, reported that it has provided Hezbollah with substantial bunker-building and other materials. The company told Arab media that it had been shipping Hezbollah orders southwards towards Israel’s border. The underground bunkers used by Hezbollah, usually hidden by natural cover such as trees and foliage, were coined “nature reserves” by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and they proved difficult targets to find and destroy.
Eyewitness accounts allege that Hezbollah members are preventing the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from inspecting the trucks or preventing their movements. Reports by UNIFIL commanders have confirmed that local Hezbollah supporters have effectively prevented the force from efficiently performing its duties under Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Lebanon War. Among other tasks, the UNIFIL mandate is to assure a southern Lebanon “free of any armed personnel, assets, and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL deployed in this area.”
In light of the failure of UNIFIL and the ratcheting up of Hezbollah forces, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert turned to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to prevent weapons smuggling to Hezbollah units in southern Lebanon. “UNIFIL must act much more intensively,” Olmert said during a meeting with Ki-Moon on Monday at the end of the Mediterranean Union conference in Paris.