[While US praises Syria]`Arms from Iraq (via Syria)caused blast at Hezbollah
By Amos Harel Ha'aretz 2 January 2003
[IMRA: As Meretz and Labor plunge forward with proposals to rely on the
good will of foreign forces in the West Bank and Gaza for Israel's security,
the United States praises Syria while Syria serves as both a conduit and
original source for a build-up that threatens Israel. Meretz was right in
their 1999 platform: Israel's security must rely on the IDF -not third
parties who have other interests beyond Israel to take into account.]
Western intelligence analysts believe that an explosion at a Hezbollah base
in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on Monday resulted from the use of weapons
smuggled from Iraq.
The precise character of the weapon remains unclear.
Following the explosion, Lebanese sources reported on a strong blast at a
Hezbollah training base near the town of Jinta. Hezbollah closed off the
area and barred media crews from entering it. Ambulances approached the
town, but it is not clear whether their crews treated any wounded. At this
stage, the number of persons hurt by the explosion remains unknown.
Hezbollah often follows a policy of withholding information about
casualties. This was its standard policy during its years of warfare against
the Israel Defense Forces in southern Lebanon.
Western intelligence experts believe that the explosion was connected to an
Iraqi arms shipment that reached Hezbollah a few days before Monday's blast.
Two different explanations might account for the explosion. According to one
theory, it resulted from a test that Hezbollah attempted with one of the
weapons, perhaps a trial missile launch. Alternatively, a mishap might have
occurred when Hezbollah tried to store the arms in a bunker.
Last week, Ha'aretz reported that Iraq gave Hezbollah medium-range missiles.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said last week that Israel believes Iraq also
transferred chemical and biological weapons to Syria in order to keep them
from the attention of United Nations inspectors. The claim
that Baghdad is hiding nonconventional weapons in Syria is being
investigated, but it has yet to be verified conclusively, a senior Israeli
security official said yesterday.
In addition to receiving weapons from Iraq, Hezbollah has also received
stepped-up arms shipments from Syria. Damascus has given Hezbollah
Syrian-made missiles whose range is comparable to that of the Iranian
missiles already in the organization's possession. Several hundred missiles
have been sent to Hezbollah by both Syria and Iran. The Israeli official
said that "Hafez Assad would roll over in his grave if he could see the
nature of the ties that his son, President Bashar Assad, has forged with the
Israeli officials accuse Syria of continuing to foment Palestinian terror
against Israel, charging that the Syrians allow terror organizations to
operate freely in Damascus. Israeli officials also accuse Syria of using
Hezbollah as a means of pressuring Jerusalem, noting that Damascus has
thwarted efforts by the Lebanese army to deploy troops in the south of the
country in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 425. In so doing,
Syria has undermined efforts to allay tensions on the northern border,
An IDF investigation of a terror attack near Kibbutz Metzuba in the western
Galilee last March, in which six Israelis were killed, has established that
the strike was perpetrated by two Palestinian residents of Lebanon who
belong to Islamic Jihad. However, the pair was sent out on the attack by
Hezbollah, which also trained them and provided firearms and the ladder that
they used to scale the electronic border fence, the army says.
Hezbollah has denied involvement in this attack, apparently out of concern
for its credibility among Lebanon's public: While many Lebanese view attacks
in the Har Dov region as legitimate, this attack occurred outside that
region, and might thus have been considered illegitimate. Nevertheless,
Israeli officials have no doubts about Hezbollah's link to the attack.
So far, however, Israel is certain about the identity of only one of the
assailants. Though Israel ensured that photographs of the terrorists'
corpses would be published in Lebanese newspapers, in the hopes that
relatives would identify the bodies, to date, it has received reliable
information about the identity of only one of the two. Hezbollah continues
to conceal the identities of the two men from their families.
Information that has reached Israel's security establishment also indicates
that a senior Al-Qaida operative is actively recruiting men from this region
for the organization. An Israeli security official said that this recruiter,
one of Al-Qaida's top six members, recently visited Jordan, Syria and
Lebanon in an effort to win new recruits for Osama bin Laden's organization.
Al-Qaida's core group, the Israeli official said, continues to operate on
the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, but orders are sent out from there to
points throughout the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen and
Al-Qaida also recently started to operate terror cells in the Gaza Strip.
These cells are comprised of Palestinians from Gaza. Most of them were
previously affiliated with Islamic Jihad, but some may have been associated
with Fatah's "popular committees." The cells receive orders from sources in
Lebanon. Their members have apparently already been involved in shooting
attacks in the Gaza Strip and are thought to be drawing up plans for
larger-scale attacks. Recently, Israeli security officials say, there has
been a noticeable rise in the number of threats by Al-Qaida men against
Israeli and Jewish targets in Israel and overseas.