'Lebanese army seized Hezbollah rockets in 2nd Lebanon War'

WikiLeaks cable shows then-defense minister told US envoy of willingness to "hit back" at militia.

March 20, 2011 12:50
2 minute read.
Hezbollah rocket launcher

Hezbollah rocket launcher 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

At the height of the Second Lebanon War, Lebanon’s defense minister told the US ambassador that the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) had seized a shipment of rockets destined for Hezbollah, according to a leaked US State Department cable, furnished by WikiLeaks and published by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar on Sunday.

According to the cable, Defense Minister Elias Murr, in a meeting with US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, claimed that during the first week of August 2006, the LAF intercepted and seized a container of rockets bound for Hezbollah. If true, the act would represent an intriguing instance of the LAF actively restraining and preventing the Iranianbacked Hezbollah guerrillas from resupplying arms in wartime.

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Earlier in the meeting, the Lebanese defense minister said he believed Syria had been able to resupply Hezbollah with 2,500 rockets before Israel destroyed supply roads linking Syria and Lebanon.

Discussing the possibility that the war would escalate further, Murr told Feltman that he did not believe Hezbollah would follow through on threats to attack Tel Aviv. He said that the order for such an escalation would need to come from Tehran.

In order for that to happen, he explained, Israel would have to strike downtown Beirut, which he didn’t believe would happen. He said that the only way the IDF would strike the center of Lebanon’s capital was if Hezbollah moved rocket launchers there, something he dismissed as “impossible,” saying, “I have too many soldiers there.”

During the 34-day war against Hezbollah, Israel did attack infrastructure targets in the Beirut area.

Addressing the then-impending cease fire, Murr told the US ambassador that the LAF would be willing to actively confront Hezbollah elements in southern Lebanon.

According to the American ambassador, “Murr stated clearly that the LAF was prepared to hit back at Hezbollah if they attempted to fire at Israel or tried to draw Israeli fire by placing launchers near to LAF positions.”

Asked by Feltman if he believed Hezbollah would accept an LAF presence in the south of the country, the Lebanese defense minister said, “Let them play with the Lebanese army. When we’re in the South, anyone who moves, we’ll shoot at. No joke.”

In order to prevent further Hezbollah rearming, Murr supported the idea of UNIFIL or other United Nations forces deploying at Lebanese air and sea ports, “to reassure the Israelis that Hezbollah will not be resupplied.”

The meeting between Murr and Feltman took place shortly before a Lebanese cabinet session, which approved the deployment of 15,000 LAF troops in southern Lebanon under a ceasefire that would only later materialize as part of UNSC Resolution 1701.

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