Assad smuggling weapons to Hizbullah

Analysis: Three weeks into the war, intelligence is both clearer and darker.

By
August 1, 2006 02:32
2 minute read.
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Three weeks into the war with Hizbullah, the IDF's intelligence picture is growing clearer, although at the same time darker. According to new intelligence obtained by the defense establishment, Syrian President Bashar Assad, alongside senior military officials, is directly involved in the attempts to smuggle weapons and rockets to Hizbullah in Lebanon. On Monday, Assad called on his army to increase readiness to cope with "regional challenges." In addition, the extent of Iran's intimate involvement in Hizbullah attacks is also starting to emerge. According to the defense establishment, the reason Hizbullah has not fired long-range Iranian-made Fajr missiles at Israel is due to Teheran's opposition. Israel now understands that without direct orders from the ayatollahs, Hizbullah is not allowed to use Iranian missiles in attacks against Israel. The IDF also believes that it seriously damaged the long-range rocket array in the first night of air strikes almost three weeks ago and impaired Hizbullah's ability to fire the rockets. Nevertheless, Hizbullah is still believed to have 10,000 short-range Katyusha rockets, after 1,500 were fired at Israel and another 1,500 were destroyed by the air force. The longer-range Zelzal missiles, manufactured by Iran and capable of reaching Tel Aviv, have also not been fired at Israel, and the IDF believes this is because it destroyed almost two-thirds of these in the Hizbullah arsenal. In addition, Israel has identified the bodies of 200 Hizbullah operatives killed in fighting, out of the organization's total number of fighters estimated to stand at 1,000. Hizbullah fighters were also found to be using special thermal suits that retained their body heat and curtailed IDF attempts to discover them at night. Alongside the regular Hizbullah fighters, the defense establishment has identified two senior officials in the organization who were killed in IAF missile strikes: Jihad Atayeh, head logistic officer for Hizbullah in southern Lebanon and one of the planners of the cross-border attack in 2000 during which three IDF soldiers were kidnapped; and Nur Shilhav, responsible for coordinating the smuggling of weapons from Syria into Lebanon. Iran is also believed to have a strong presence in Lebanon, including dozens of members of the Revolutionary Guard that are instructing the Hizbullah how to use advanced weaponry similar to the Iranian-supplied C-802 missile which hit a navy missile ship two weeks ago. A special Military Intelligence unit, consisting of six professional profilers, has been established to profile Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. According to the unit, Nasrallah is scared of a massive ground incursion, which he understands could destroy his infrastructure in southern Lebanon. The bottom line is that in contrast to public perception that Hizbullah was winning the war, the defense establishment believes that the group has been dealt a fatal blow and while it still had the ability to shoot Katyushas at Israel, firing a record 150 Sunday, the fact that on Monday the group only fired two rockets demonstrated Nasrallah's interest in reaching a cease-fire with Israel.

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