flag hizbullah border298.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah is buying up lands owned by Christians and other non-Shi'ites in southern Lebanon as a means to rebuild its defenses in preparation for a new war with Israel, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
Allegedly, the land grab is driven by Hizbullah's efforts to rearm itself and fortify the strategically important ravines north of the Litani River. All land north of the river is beyond the jurisdiction of UNIFIL, which holds some 13,000 peacekeepers south of the Litani, in addition to 20,000 Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) troops operating there.
The report also stated that the LAF, about half of which is comprised of Shi'ites, seems to be turning a blind eye to Hizbullah activities north of the river.
The area's forested valleys are similar to the areas termed by the IDF "natural reserves" in the Second Lebanon War - rugged terrain specked by trees ideal for Hizbullah's brand of guerrilla warfare. At 16 kilometers from the border, the lands allegedly purchased are within rocket range of Israeli cities.
The Telegraph also noted that the real estate deals of Hizbullah potentially endanger Lebanon's delicate sectarian equilibrium, upsetting the population's balance of mixed Christian, Muslim and Druse communities.
"Christians and Druse are selling land and moving out, while the Shi'ites are moving in. There is an extraordinary demo-graphic shift taking place," Edmund Rizk, a Christian MP for the area until 1992, was quoted by the paper as saying.
The deals are said to be the work of wealthy Shi'ite businessman Ali Tajeddine, owner of a successful Lebanese construction company.
During an interview with the Telegraph, Tajeddine denied any connection with Hizbullah.