NICOSIA ø Hizbullah said it is better prepared than ever for a
military confrontation with Israel.
The Iranian-sponsored insurgency group has built a formidable array of
defenses and gathered an arsenal in southern Lebanon for an attack on
Israel. Hizbullah said its forces have been trained for war with Israel
along its border with Lebanon.
"We are now highly prepared to face Israel," Hizbullah deputy
secretary-general Naim Qassem said. "We are more highly prepared than at any
In an interview with the Beirut-based Daily Star, Qassem said Hizbullah
has opened a second front against Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He
acknowledged that Hizbullah has provided Palestinian insurgents with
financing, training and weaponry.
"The battle with Israel is not at an end," Qassem said on Wednesday. "We
are always in expectation of an Israeli attack in Lebanon. That's why
Hizbullah continues with its logistics and training to prepare its members
for any eventuality in facing attacks by Israel."
Israeli officials said Hizbullah has deployed 12,000 rockets and
missiles in Lebanon. The group restructured its command in 2002 amid
accelerated training from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
On Aug. 17, the Kuwaiti daily Al Siyassa reported that two cargo
aircraft landed in Damascus in early August with 220 missiles for Hizbullah.
The newspaper quoted Syrian opposition sources in London as saying that the
enhanced Iranian missiles have a range of between 250 and 350 kilometers and
could hit any target in Israel.
Al Siyassa said the missiles were transported in Lebanese and Syrian
trucks to three Hizbullah military bases along the Syrian border. The
newspaper said the missiles would be used in response to any Israeli
attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
In July, Hizbullah accused Israel of assassinating a senior operative,
Ghaleb Awali. Alawi was identified by Hizbullah as its liasion with
Palestinian insurgency groups.
In the interview, Qassem said Hizbullah sought to fight Israel along any
front. He said his group constantly sought to exploit deficiencies in
"We believe we should stand by the side of the Palestinians because it
is our cause too, for religious reasons and moral reasons," Qassem said.
"That's why we support the uprising with all the means we can. You can put
anything you want under 'all.'"
In an appearance on Wednesday, Qassem rejected U.S. efforts to end the
Syrian occupation of Lebanon. He said Washington did not have any right to
interfere in Lebanon's domestic or foreign policy.
"We, the Lebanese, have chosen the presence of Syrian troops," Qassem
said. "If, one day, we decide that this presence
is no longer necessary then they will withdraw. But we believe that they are
a necessity for Lebanon."
Meanwhile, Hassan Nasrallah was given a rousing endorsement for his
continued leadership of the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah.
Nasrallah, 44, was elected unanimously to continue for at least another
three years as secretary-general of Hizbullah. He has been in the post since
A Hizbullah statement on Monday said the national congress reelected all
of the members of the Shura Council. In turn, the seven-member consultative
council chose Nasrallah to remain as chief of the insurgency group. This
will be Nasrallah's fifth term.
Nasrallah has been a founding member of Hizbullah, and replaced the late
Abbas Mussawi, assassinated by Israel, in 1992. He frequently travels to
Teheran to consult with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and ruling
clerics regarding Hizbullah strategy.
Under Nasrallah, Hizbullah forced Israel to withdraw from southern
Lebanon in 2000 and then took over the area. The group, which launches
regular attacks on Israeli troops and civilians, was said to have 12,000
rockets and missiles along the Israeli-Lebanese border.
The statement said the Shura Council would announce the portfolios of
its members of the new few days.
Hizbullah, regarded by the State Department as the leading Islamic
insurgency group in the world, has also participated in Lebanese politics.
The group has nine legislators in the 128-member parliament.