Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hizbullah Fortifies Frontier Against Israel

By Mona Alami

"NABATIYEH, Dec 14 (IPS) - In the mountains towering above this southern city, Hizbullah (Party of God) is building a new line of defence on lands where a fierce war was once fought between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel.....

Hizbullah entrenchment in this area is the result of careful calculation. "The topography of the area north of the Litani is ideal for guerrilla warfare because of the rude and steep nature of the terrain. Any land invasion would result in significant losses for the Israelis, as soldiers would have to venture into the valleys and wadis by foot and abandon their tanks, which can’t be used on this particular terrain," says Amin Hoteit, former Lebanese army general and specialist in military strategy. The general adds that the location of Mount Safi and its closeness to both Beirut and the Bekaa would also facilitate military supplies to the Party of God.

To overcome adverse geographical factors, Israel would have to rely on air power, which is now a risk considering that the extent of Hizbullah’s anti-aircraft capability is still unknown.

Analyst and Hizbullah specialist Amal Saad Ghorayeb believes that Hizbullah’s SAM- 8 (surface-to- air missile) and anti-aircraft missiles leave Israel vulnerable. "In spite of the fact that Israel is building an anti-missile shield, this will not put an end to any significant rocket barrage," she explains.

Contrary to what Hoteit says, the analyst argues that she does not expect the war to be limited to the north of the Litani. "Nasrallah declared in a recent speech that in the event of a war, the resistance will reach as far as the Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem)," she adds.

According to Hoteit, this declaration points to the possibility of a concerted effort between Hamas and Hizbullah to wage a war on two fronts - Lebanon and Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear on Nov. 7 that he considered Hizbullah "the real Lebanese army, not a sideline militia as in the past." This statement, combined with Israeli’s adoption of the Dahiya Doctrine in 2006 (stating that the Jewish state will use disproportionate force in the event of a conflict), does not bode well for Lebanon, Israel or Hizbullah.

The waiting game between Israel and Hizbullah has already started. Both parties are clearly aware that the future of two countries is at stake, keeping the spectre of war at bay for now. However, small skirmishes along the volatile border could ignite the frontier yet again."

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