TEL AVIV Ñ Hizbullah has joined the war against Iraq.
Israeli intelligence sources said hundreds of combatants from the
Iranian-backed Hizbullah have crossed into Syria and plan to continue on to Iraq to
fight coalition forces. The sources said the Hizbullah members have left
with their personal weapons and are expected to arrive in northern Iraq
by early next week.
The Hizbullah expedition was organized by the movement's
secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, who ordered his fighters to deploy in
the Shi'ite areas of Iraq. Nasrallah has sought to lead Iraq's Shi'ite
majority amid the U.S.-led war in that country, according to Middle East Newsline.
The intelligence sources said the Hizbullah deployment in Iraq appears
to be symbolic rather than operational. Israel's Channel 2 television reported on Thursday night that 2,500
Hizbullah members are heading for Iraq.
For its part, Lebanon has placed its military and security forces on
full alert amid high-level consultations with Syria. Last week, Prime
Minister Rafik Hariri met Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus.
The two leaders were said to have agreed to increase security and
military measures along the southern border with Israel. Lebanon's military
ordered anti-aircraft batteries to shoot at any intruding aircraft and
increase ground patrols along the Israeli border.
Last week, Western diplomatic sources said the children of senior
government officials and ministers were fleeing Baghdad for Jordan and
Lebanon. The sources said Jordan closed its border at the urging of the
United States. Lebanon, however, kept the border with Syria open and
admitted Iraqi nationals.