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Hizbullah is building up reinforcements north of the Litani river in anticipation of another potential war with Israel, the London Times reported on Monday.
According to the report, Hizbullah guerrillas have begun to gather in the area, which is just outside the area patrolled by UNIFIL troops, with the apparent aim of creating a Shi'ite-controlled buffer that would allow the organization to avoid notice while they build their forces.
The group is reportedly being aided in its enterprise by Shi'ite businessman Ali Tajiddine, a diamond trader with close ties to Hizbullah, who has begun buying large tracts of land from their Christian and Druse owners to serve as Hizbullah's base of operations.
"The state of Hizbullah is already in existence in south Lebanon," Druse Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt was quoted as saying.
UNIFIL's presence in southern Lebanon following last summer's war, along with the IDF's continued operations along Israel's northern border, has hampered Hizbullah's efforts to rearm and rebuild its forces. However, the group has continued to attempt to smuggle in weapons and train fighters.
Officers in the IDF's Northern Command told Vice Premier Shimon Peres last week that weapons reach Hizbullah from Syria "on a weekly basis," usually at night, evading UNIFIL peacekeepers stationed in Lebanon.
Earlier this month, a number of bombs disguised as boulders were found along the northern border, raising doubts as to the IDF's and UNIFIL's ability to effectively prevent Hizbullah from carrying out further attacks on Israel.
Shani Rosenfelder contributed to this report.
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