Intel official: Despite UNIFIL, Hizbullah has built up underground infrastructure

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee members: IDF chief's briefing superficial

Ashkenazi 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Ashkenazi 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Since the end of the Second Lebanon War, Hizbullah has amassed an underground military infrastructure under the noses of UNIFIL, a senior Military Intelligence officer told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday morning. Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Military Intelligence's Research Division, said that in the almost two years since the end of the war, Hizbullah has built a massive underground infrastructure in the area south of the Litani River. Despite UN Resolution 1701 (which ruled that no military forces could be deployed south of the river and that Hizbullah must disarm) at the time seen as a victory for Israel, in the aftermath of the war Hizbullah has maintained and even strengthened its presence in the very areas from which the IDF sought to remove them in summer 2006. "The only thing that is different from the situation before the war is that Hizbullah flags aren't being flown," said Baidatz. Although the presence of UNIFIL troops in the area has prevented Hizbullah from acting openly, according to Baidatz, the Iranian-sponsored terror group has smuggled tens of thousands of rockets and has brought thousands of fighters to the area. Baidatz, however, was not the main attraction at the committee meeting, where IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi gave MKs an overview of the IDF's recent activities. Ashkenazi told MKs that in the West Bank the Palestinian Authority Police are doing their best in terms of maintaining law and order in the areas under their control, but not stepping up to the challenge of maintaining security. The IDF chief also addressed the situation in the Gaza Strip, but many MKs were less than satisfied with his summary which they said lasted for less than ten minutes. MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) wrote a letter of complaint to Committee Chairman MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima) arguing that "the chief of staff's appearance today made the committee into a joke. There is no reason to hold meetings with the chief of staff when he merely puts a check next to the fact that he has appeared before the committee." Beilin complained that Ashkenazi's seven-minute-long lecture, followed by longer commentary by his lieutenants, wasted the committee members' time when they could have been discussing more pressing topics. MK Limor Livnat (Likud) also expressed disappointment with Ashkenazi's overview, complaining that it was superficial and did not adequately address the critical topics at hand.