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Yet, despite the presence of a 12,000 man UN truce keeping force (UNIFIL) and 15,000 Lebanese soldiers (LAF), both forces have been unable to prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling weapons in southern Lebanon. To that end, Israel has been seeking to have the UN enforce a much tougher mandate than what is currently in place.
As it stands now, most of Hezbollah’s weapons are held in populated civilian areas but UNIFIL forces can’t enter those villages and towns unless it is coordinated with the Lebanese Army. However, more often than not, the LAF tips off Hezbollah prior to such a move.
Still, even if the UN strengthens its mandate, it may have fewer participating nations, as UNIFIL has come under increasing attack. The latest incident came in the form of a recent roadside bombing of UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon, a bombing that killed one Italian soldier and wounded six. The assault was believed to be part of a broader operation that included launching rockets into Israel.
While the investigation of that attack is currently ongoing, Hezbollah and Fatah al-Islam, an al-Qaeda-linked Palestinian terror group, each accused the other of planning and executing the attack. Despite the blame shifting, it doesn’t surprise that Hezbollah is taking advantage of Lebanon’s current political vacuum to stir up trouble along the UN-mapped frontier with Israel.
The most recent outbreak of violence there came in May when Hezbollah and Syrian-backed protesters stormed the Israeli border but were fired upon by Lebanese troops, killing 10 people in the process. However, a similar such scheduled protest on Naksa Day — the 44th anniversary of the Six Day War — was averted when Hezbollah called it off after Israel had issued a not-so-veiled warning that those behind the protests “would be held accountable.”
Still, despite Hezbollah’s apparent cold feet, it has long been itching for a fight with Israel, most fervently since the assassination in 2008 of Hezbollah’s chief of military operations Imad Mughniyeh. In April 2011, Israelis were already being warned of Hezbollah attacks against Israeli overseas targets.
The preference of Hezbollah according to Israeli intelligence officials was to bomb an overseas target like an Israeli embassy or consulate rather than the Lebanese border region so it would give Hezbollah more deniability. Fortunately, those anticipated attacks never materialized.
Yet while those overseas attempts by Hezbollah may have been foiled, it’s only a matter of time before it targets its deadly arsenal on Israel itself. While Syria and Iran are actively engaging in acts of provocation with Israel, their terrorist proxy organization Hezbollah would be the most likely to lead an actual assault.
It’s certainly a role Hezbollah doesn’t shy from. According to Nasrallah, “Negotiations (with Israel) are the crazy and futile options that don’t achieve any results.” Even the Israelis know what’s coming. As Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said about the current truce with Hezbollah, “This is not forever…You need to be ready for every test.”
The contents of that test were chillingly presented by Nasrallah when he said, “The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win, because they love life and we love death.” Unfortunately for Israelis, Hezbollah’s love of death may soon come in the form of a barrage of missiles and rockets.
Frank Crimi is a writer living in San Diego, California. You can read more of Frank’s work at his blog, www.politicallyunbalanced.com.
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