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Long-range missiles, as well as truckloads of advanced anti-tank missiles originating in Iran and Syria, have been smuggled to Hizbullah in Lebanon during the past four months since the war ended this summer, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The IDF destroyed most of Hizbullah's long-range missile array during the month-long war, including the Iranian-made Fajr and Zelzal. But according to new intelligence obtained by the defense establishment, in the four months since the war, Hizbullah has received weapon convoys carrying short-range missiles, anti-tank missiles and long-range missiles. Most of the weapon convoys crossed into Lebanon from Syria at night.
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With the increasing possibility that Hizbullah protests, launched in Beirut on Friday, would topple the US-backed government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, the Israeli defense establishment had decided not to take any chances and on Sunday raised the level of alert in the North. Israel is concerned that the Lebanese instability will ignite the situation along Israel's northern border.
Hizbullah, Military Intelligence believes, might use the Lebanese political instability as an excuse to launch attacks against Israel - not necessarily by renewing Katyusha rocket attacks like the ones used during the 34-day war this past summer, in which 4,000 rockets were fired at Israel, but by firing anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli aircraft flying over Lebanon to collect intelligence.
Hizbullah "nature reserves" - camouflaged underground systems of tunnels and bunkers used as hideouts for guerrillas - are still operating in southern Lebanon despite the beefed up presence of UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) south of the Litani River. These areas are designated as "closed military zones" for UNIFIL and the LAF and are used as training centers for Hizbullah as well as storehouses for their weapons and rocket caches.
While UNIFIL and the LAF presence in southern Lebanon has forced Hizbullah to conceal its weapons, MI does not believe that the multinational force is not an "obstacle" for the guerrilla Shi'ite group. If Saniora's government falls, MI does not foresee UNIFIL being automatically expelled from Lebanon, but rather the sponsor countries, including Italy and France, having to decide whether they will pull their troops out or not.
Hizbullah, MI has learned, has been using the post-war period to rehabilitate its armed wing. MI believes that "sooner or later" Hizbullah will resume military operations against Israel in the form of mortar and rocket attacks on northern Israeli communities as well as kidnapping attempts along the border.
MI believes that if Israel "engaged" Syria and offered a renewal of dialogue between the two countries, President Bashar Assad would accept the offer without any preconditions. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ruled out the possibility of talks with Syria, which he has called the "single most aggressive member of the axis of evil."
While there existed a chance for war with Syria - the Syrian military has been at readiness since the war in Lebanon - MI does not believe Assad will initiate a conflict with Israel despite remarks he recently made regarding the option of military action as a means to redeem the Golan Heights.
MI's assessment does, however, cite an "escalation" in tension between the countries due to Syria's support of Hizbullah, including the supply of weapons to the guerrilla group as well as the strategic alliance Damascus has forged with Iran.