Qais al-Khazali .
(photo credit: YOU TUBE)
Qais al-Khazali, the commander of Iraq’s Iranian- backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, has been filmed in south Lebanon overlooking Metulla and Kiryat Shmona.
“We here with Hezbollah declare our total readiness to stand together with the Lebanese people and the Palestinian cause against Israeli occupation,” Khazali is heard saying in a video.
The video, which appeared on social media late Friday, showed Khazali at the Fatima Gate, also known as the former Good Fence Crossing, west of Metulla, in military garb, declaring his readiness to support “resistance fighters” and to come to the “rescue” of Palestinians and Jerusalem.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a 33-day war in 2006, which came to an end under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that called for disarmament of Hezbollah, withdrawal of the Israeli army from Lebanon, and the deployment of the Lebanese Army and an enlarged UN force in southern Lebanon.
Michael Horowitz, a geopolitical and security analyst, told The Jerusalem Post
that the timing of Khazali’s visit suggests that Hezbollah is trying to highlight that it is now a regional power with international partners ready to fight alongside it.
“The fact that a US-branded terrorist was able to visit an area in southern Lebanon over-watching Israel is an affront both to Israel and to the newly not-resigned prime minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, who has been adamant about the policy of ‘dissociation’ from regional crises,” Horowitz said.
“This also may be an attempt to embarrass Hariri – by denouncing the presence of Iran proxies in southern Lebanon, the PM would also indirectly be seen as siding against efforts to ‘recapture Jerusalem.’” But, he added, “You also have to wonder, where is UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon]? The visit of the leader of a foreign militia funded and trained by the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps] is another example of the UN mission’s overall failure to create a buffer zone in southern Lebanon, where the Lebanese state is [supposed to be] the main (and only) actor,” he added.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri issued a statement saying the border visit by a paramilitary in uniform violated Lebanese law. He had instructed security chiefs to “prevent any person from carrying out activities of a military nature on the country’s territory and to prevent any illegal actions,” and barred Khazali from entering the country, the statement said.
Due to its combat experience in Syria, the group has grown significantly in terms of technology and battlefield experience and is considered Israel’s most dangerous enemy.
According to IDF assessments, in addition to a massive arsenal of rockets and missiles, Hezbollah is able to mobilize close to 30,000 fighters and has greatly expanded its tunnel system – complete with ventilation, electricity and rocket launchers.
Some 200 villages in south Lebanon have been turned into military strongholds from where Hezbollah gunmen are able to watch Israeli soldiers at any time.
In June, the IDF accused the Shi’ite terrorist organization of violating the UN resolution by establishing observation posts since April under the guise of an NGO, “Green Without Borders,” near the UN-delineated Blue Line border with Israel, presumably in order to gather intelligence.
But Israel’s accusations were rejected by UN spokeswoman Eri Kaneko, who said that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon is in contact with the Lebanese military to ensure that there are no violations of the resolution, “to avoid any misunderstandings or tensions that could endanger the cessation of hostilities.” While “Green Without Borders” members have planted trees in the area, UNIFIL “has not observed any unauthorized armed persons at the locations or found any basis to report a violation of Resolution 1701,” she said, adding that “UNIFIL remains vigilant and continues to monitor the Blue Line.”
According to IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, while UNIFIL is helping to maintain calm in southern Lebanon, its leadership does not do enough when Hezbollah violates the resolution.Reuters contributed to this report.