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Monday, September 25, 2006

Hezbollah moving rockets near Israeli border

JERUSALEM – Hezbollah has been transporting rockets and heavy weaponry to Palestinian camps in south Lebanon just a few miles from the Israeli border, according to Lebanese officials.

The officials told WND the office of Lebanese Prime Minister Faud Sinora sent a letter last week to Abbas Zakir, the Palestinian Authority's most senior representative in Lebanon, outlining the alleged Hezbollah weapons transfers into Palestinian camps. The letter noted "unusual activity" in and near the Palestinian camps, including the coming and going of trucks suspected of carrying weapons.

Palestinian groups, including Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, maintain armed bases in Lebanon, mostly in the al-Naemeh province just south of Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley, near Lebanon's border with Syria and Israel. Fatah is the party of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

The reports follow a WND article last month quoting Lebanese officials claiming Hezbollah, with the help of Iran, started building underground war bunkers in Lebanon's Palestinian camps.

During its 34-day confrontation with Hezbollah in Lebanon that began July 12, Israel destroyed scores of complex Hezbollah bunkers that snaked along the Lebanese side of the Israel-Lebanon border. Military officials said they were surprised by the scale of the Hezbollah bunkers, in which Israeli troops reportedly found war rooms with advanced eavesdropping and surveillance equipment they noted were made by Iran.

A senior Lebanese official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told WND Hezbollah started building a new set of bunker systems, this time in Palestinian refugee camps.

"The Lebanese Army doesn't have the authority to patrol inside the camps," said the official. "Hezbollah knows it is safe there to rebuild their war bunkers, and they began doing so with Iranian help."

A second Lebanese official confirmed the information, which came one day after Israel's Army Radio reported Hezbollah was seen by the Israeli army dismantling 14 outposts near the border with Israel, removing rockets and equipment for transport.

According to Army Radio, Hezbollah members blocked entry to their outposts using bulldozers. Trucks then removed weapons and other munitions from the area. Vehicles also reportedly cleared furniture and equipment from the outposts.

The Lebanese Army and a contingent of several thousand international troops have deployed in South Lebanon. None of the forces are authorized to enter Palestinian refugee camps.

The Lebanese government has stated its army will not confront Hezbollah or work to disarm the group. An agreement reached with Hezbollah last month allows the Lebanese militia to retain its weapons as long as it doesn't display the arms in public.

The agreement is in violation of the U.N. cease-fire resolution that ended confrontations initiated when Hezbollah ambushed an Israeli patrol unit, kidnapping two soldiers and killing eight others. The resolution calls for the eventual disarming of Hezbollah.

During a Hezbollah "victory" parade in south Beirut last Friday, the group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, declared Hezbollah possesses more than 20,0000 rockets aimed at Israel and pledged his group will quickly reestablish militant bases in Lebanon.

Making his first public appearance since the war started, Nasrallah drew loud applause from the crowd when he vowed: "We will rehabilitate the force and bases within a short period of time."

"The resistance today is stronger than it was on July 12," Nasrallah said. "He who wants to weaken us is miscalculating."

Israeli security officials did not deny Nasrallah's claims of continuing to maintain a large rocket arsenal.

An official pointed to a volley of 240 rockets fired by Hezbollah one day before last month's cease-fire was imposed, the largest number the group had launched in a 24-hour period. One Israeli civilian was killed in the attacks; 26 others were injured.

"The message sent is that Hezbollah absolutely maintains the capability of firing hundreds of rockets per day into Israel," commented the official. "Wasn't one of the [Israeli] military campaign's main goals to eliminate the rocket threat?"

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