Hizbullah admits to holding largest exercise ever

Group's deputy leader: Maneuver meant to prepare for Israeli attack; claims participants were unarmed.

hizbullah militia 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
hizbullah militia 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah held its largest ever training exercise near southern Lebanon's border with Israel in preparation for a response to any Israeli offensive, the Shi'ite group's deputy leader, Sheikh Naim Kassem said Thursday. Sawat al-Balad quoted Kassem as saying that the exercise staged last week involved "enormous and important" maneuvers that were carried out so that the group "won't be caught by surprise." According to the leader, Hizbullah had acquired a weapons arsenal that was capable of reaching all parts of Israel. "The exercise was unrestricted and was meant to cover all of the territory of the Zionist entity and not simply to strengthen our forces," Kassem claimed. The operatives were unarmed during the maneuver, Kassem claimed. "The drill was part of an obligation to make our presence and readiness known and [to show] that we act how we see fit," he added. The exercise lasted for three days and was reportedly the largest in Hizbullah's history. According to a report in the Al Akhbar newspaper, one of the exercise's main objectives was to convey to Israel the "big surprises" Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah had threatened to unleash if Israel attacks Lebanon. Furthermore, the exercise was tailored to the IDF's strategy as observed during the Second Lebanon War and after it. The exercise took into account, for example, the increased deployment of UNIFIL peacekeepers since the war ended. While the leadership of UNIFIL was embarrassed by the liberty taken by guerilla operatives south of the Litani River - an area where they are banned from traveling according to UN resolution 1701 (the cease-fire resolution that went into effect August 14 2006) - the IDF was well aware of the maneuvers and Israeli UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) carried out an unprecedented number of forays during it. The IAF drones' presence was so prominent that the aircraft were shown on Lebanese TV news editions.