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Monday, May 24, 2010     GET REAL

Hizbullah puts 20,000 soldiers on alert near Israel

NICOSIA — The Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah has mobilized up to 20,000 soldiers and placed them on alert to confront Israel's military along the Lebanese border.


Hizbullah, with an estimated 60,000 missiles and rockets, has been recruiting to double its force in Lebanon. Most of the Shi'ite troops, trained in Iran and Syria, were said to have been deployed in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, Middle East Newsline reported.

Officials said Hizbullah has placed all of its forces on alert for the prospect of an Israeli military operation in Lebanon. They said Israel's military could decide to launch attacks on Hizbullah and Palestinian targets during its major exercise in late May along the northern border with Lebanon.

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"Do not fear the maneuvers of the enemy," Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah said on May 22.

Israel has completed preparations for an air and ground exercise in the north in an effort to enhance defenses in any regional war that could involve Iran and Syria. The exercise, scheduled to begin on May 23, was expected to last a week.

"Hizbullah fighters have [been instructed] to be completely ready to confront Israeli maneuvers on Sunday [May 23]," Nabil Qawk, commander of Hizbullah forces in southern Lebanon, said.

The Israeli exercise coincides with municipal elections in Lebanon. Hizbullah said it has withdrawn thousands of soldiers assigned to secure the elections to face Israel's military.

On May 21, the Lebanese Army reported the discovery of a rocket near the border with Israel. The unidentified rocket found near Hasbaya was part of a search by the Army for weapons south of the Litani River.

Hizbullah ally Syria has also reported a mobilization to confront Israel's military. Syria was said to have deployed Scud C and D extended-range ballistic missiles along the border with Lebanon.

"In the event of any new attack on Lebanon, the Israelis will not find anywhere in Palestine to hide," Qawk told Agence France Presse on May 21.

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