'Iran training Hizbullah fighters for next conflict with Israel'

UK paper says since Nov. 2006, 4,500 Hizbullah fighters have gone to Teheran for 3-month stints of live-fire ammunition and rocket exercises.

Hizbullah fighters 224.8 (photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah fighters 224.8
(photo credit: AP [file])
Around 300 Hizbullah recruits are taken from Lebanon to Iran each month to train for the "next" war with Israel, according to a report in a British newspaper on Tuesday. In The Independent, journalist Robert Fisk claimed that since November 2006, as many as 4,500 Hizbullah fighters have gone to Teheran for three-month stints of live-fire ammunition and rocket exercises to "create a nucleus of Iranian-trained guerrillas for the next Israeli-Hizbullah war." Fisk also claimed that Hizbullah had a new "surprise" weapon - suspected to be a new Iranian-developed ground-to-air-missile - that "may at last challenge Israel's air supremacy over Lebanon." "For more than 30 years, Israel's fighter-bombers have had the skies to themselves, losing only two aircraft - one to a primitive Palestinian SAM-7 shoulder-fired missile, the other to Syrian anti-aircraft guns - during and after its 1982 invasion," Fisk said in his news report. Whether a new Israel-Hizbullah conflict will take place will depend on US President George W. Bush, Fisk said. "If America - or its proxy, Israel - bombs Iran, the response is likely to be swift and will come from the deep underground bunkers that the Hizbullah has been building in the fields and beside the roadways east and south of Jezzine," Fisk said. According to Fisk, Hizbullah has kept to the UN resolution and has no fighters in the agreed UN area of control between Israel's border and the Litani river. "[Hizbullah leader Hassan] Nasrallah respects the UN resolution, which placed the peacekeepers between the Israeli border and the Litani in 2006," he claimed. However, he said that north of the Litani, Hizbullah had improved its bunkers and even used "dummy" aerials for "Israel's pilots to attack." "Hizbullah learned a lot from the 2006 war," Fisk maintained. "Then its secret bunkers were air-conditioned with beds and kitchens attached." Fisk also maintained that IAF maps had been found in Hizbullah bunkers during the 2006 conflict, and said that Hizbullah had bribed or blackmailed Israeli security forces. "When Israeli troops discovered a handful of them [maps], they also found copies of their own Israeli Air Force reconnaissance photographs, complete with Hebrew markings... Hizbullah had obviously bribed or blackmailed Israeli border guards for the pictures from which they could tell at once which bunkers the Israelis had identified and which remained unknown to them," Fisk said. "Which is how, in 2006, its guerrillas sat safely through days of air bombardment in the latter, while allowing the Israelis to blitz the 'known' fortresses to their hearts' content," Fisk said, adding, "Who knows if Hizbullah has not since collected a new batch of photographs for the coming months?" He said that the future of Lebanon was in the hands of the US and Iran, and added that Nasrallah would retaliate against Israel for the killing of the group's operations chief, Imad Mughniyeh, in Damascus in February. "Just as the Israelis constantly warn of war, so the Hizbullah still promises revenge for the car-bomb murder of its former intelligence officer [Mughniyeh]," he said.