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Hizbullah 'more highly prepared' than ever for Israel

Special to World Tribune.com
MIDDLE EAST NEWSLINE
Friday, August 20, 2004

NICOSIA 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 previous time."

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 Israel's military.

"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 1992.

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.


Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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