MI officer: Hizbullah preparing for more violence

Says UNIFIL can't prevent terrorists rearming; Barak calls on soldiers to maintain vigilance.

Barak can see the pub 248 88 (photo credit: AP )
Barak can see the pub 248 88
(photo credit: AP )
Hizbullah is rearming and getting ready for new violence along the border, and in many cases, UNIFIL is at a loss to act against the terror organization, a top military intelligence officer warned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday. The organization is once again becoming stronger and increasing its medium- and long-range rocket capacity, the officer told the committee, which was gathered to hear from IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. The IDF has identified a general "change in preparedness" south of the Litani River, he said, and rockets are part of that changing dynamic. In addition to surface-to-surface missile capacity, Hizbullah has increased operations in south Lebanese villages, with operatives dressed as civilians, the officer added. Previously much of Hizbullah's preparations for IDF operations were carried out in open areas - so-called "nature reserves" - but those areas are now more heavily monitored by UNIFIL, the officer said. In contrast, the villages and towns of southern Lebanon offer the organization more freedom of movement, as UNIFIL is prohibited from operating in them without coordination with the Lebanese Army. Hizbullah, he said, was preparing for an increase in violence along the border. However, he warned that an attack could be carried out in the name of another terror group, masking Hizbullah's involvement. The officer said Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah had come to the conclusion, through the Israeli press, that Israel feared the Hizbullah response to the killing of the organization's terror chief Imad Mughniyeh. Later Tuesday, on a tour of the northern border, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Hizbullah against taking revenge for Mughniyeh's assassination, which the Lebanese terror group claims was engineered by Israel. "Israel is the strongest country in the region, and I wouldn't recommend that anyone provoke us," Barak told soldiers. "Hizbullah is becoming stronger, and so are we. The IDF is prepared for all eventualities. We watch the pastoral calm, and we know that other things are seething beneath the surface." "Hizbullah is currently refraining from firing, but has not stopped hatching plans... in the entire area," Barak added. "Hizbullah's activity continues, and we continue to monitor the activity and deployment of the organization." Barak called on soldiers to maintain vigilance, saying that they "must be alert at all times and ready to respond quickly - to make a quick transition from routine to engagement." During the Knesset committee meeting, Ashkenazi also addressed the issue of drafting yeshiva students to mixed religious-secular units and extending their period of military service. The IDF chief denied that OC Manpower Gen. Elazar Stern was carrying out a "personal campaign" against religious soldiers, and emphasized that decisions would be made on the basis of agreements with yeshiva heads. Nevertheless, the IDF is suffering from a manpower shortage of thousands of soldiers, he said, adding that it was "professionally correct" to extend the service of yeshiva students, who currently serve approximately one-third of the standard military service period. Ashkenazi also emphatically denied allegations that the IDF had ever deprived yeshiva students of the option to enlist in the much-sought-after Golani and Paratroopers' infantry brigades.