With considerable support from Iran and Syria, the terrorist organization Hizballah is rearming for another war with Israel. Time magazine on Monday published an article by Beirut-based correspondent Nicholas Blanford providing firsthand evidence of the group's efforts to turn Southern Lebanon into an armed camp.
Blanford, a veteran journalist who has written several books on Lebanon and reported from the country for newspapers like the Christian Science Monitor, the Times of London, and Beirut Daily Star, recently visited Jezzine, a town near the Israel-Lebanon border.
He was accosted by a Hizballah fighter carrying an AK-47. "What are you doing here?" he demanded. "This is a military zone. You should not be here."
The young radical had been guarding an outpost created by Hizballah on a remote mountaintop. The location was chosen, Blanford writes, because it gave Hizballah a commanding view of the southern Bekaa Valley - an area that is home to one of the world's largest concentrations of terrorist training camps. It is almost certain to be a major battleground if there is another war between Israel and Hizballah.
As far as Hizballah fighters are concerned, the question seems to be when – not if – such a war will occur. But the question of whether such a conflict will take place could well be decided in Tehran, Jerusalem and Washington. An Iranian proxy, Hizballah is a key component of the Islamic Republic's deterrent against a possible Israeli military attack against its nuclear weapons program.
Blanford's recent conversations with Hizballah fighters "reveal an organization at the peak of its military powers with an army of well-trained, disciplined, and highly motivated combatants wielding advanced weaponry, cultivating new tactics, and brimming with confidence."
One, named Ali, told him:
"The next war is coming one hundred percent, but we don't know when. We have big plans for it. God willing, you will see the end of Israel."
Ali, who joined Hizballah's youth program at age 12, said he has dedicated his life to "walking the path of the Prophet Mohammed."
"You cannot understand the joy of jihad unless you are in Hizballah," he added
Since the last round of fighting between Israel and Hizballah during the summer of 2006, the terrorist organization has built new defensive lines and firing positions. Local residents say that at night they can hear the sounds of explosions as Hizballah trains nearby. Blanford writes that "the look in the eyes of Hizballah's combatants suggests that not only are they prepared to fight [a war], they actually look forward to it."
Israel believes that Syria has transferred Scud ballistic missiles to Hizballah, and the group is believed to have obtained Syrian-manufactured M-600 guided rockets. The U.S. has expressed concern about the alleged transfers and renewed economic sanctions on Syria.
"The M-600, a copy of an Iranian rocket, can carry a 1,100 pound warhead for a distance of 155 miles, and its guidance system allows Hizballah to target Israel's defense ministry in Tel Aviv from hidden bases in the northern Bekaa Valley," Blanford wrote.