UNIFIL probes southern blast amid fresh arms claims
Israel accuses Hizbullah of placing 15,000 rockets near Blue Line
By Patrick Galey and Agence France Presse (AFP) 
Daily Star staff
Monday, September 06, 2010 

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BEIRUT: The investigation into the blasts which hit a three-storey building in 
southern Lebanon on Friday continued over the weekend amid Israeli claims that 
Hizbullah had moved a substantial amount of rockets closer to the Blue Line in 
anticipation of fresh hostilities. 

The explosions at a suspected arms depot close to the village of Shehabiyeh are 
being looked at by a team of investigators which includes members of the 
Lebanese Army and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). 

Israeli military spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich told the 
Associated Press on Saturday that footage obtained by one of its intelligence 
drones proved the explosions emanated from a residential building used as a 
Hizbullah arms cache. 

She alleged that the Shehabiyeh incident was the third of its kind this year 
and that Hizbullah was actively maintaining several weapons stores close to the 
Blue Line - in contravention of international resolutions. Leibovich claimed 
the party had ammunition silos dotted around 160 southern towns and villages. 

Following the blasts, Israel's Ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, accused 
Hizbullah of placing 15,000 rockets along the Blue Line, some capable of 
reaching southern Eilat. 

"The Syrian-Iranian backed Hizbullah poses a very serious threat to Israel," 
Oren said. "Hizbullah today now has four times as many rockets as it had during 
the 2006 Lebanon war. These rockets are longer-range. Every city in Israel is 
within range right now, including Eilat." 

Hizbullah has maintained its policy of refusing to comment on the make-up of 
its arsenal, which some Israeli analysts estimate to comprise 40,000 warheads. 
The party released a statement on Friday dismissing the Shehabiyeh incident as 
"a fire." 

Oren accused Hizbullah of actively maintaining its weapons, which if true would 
constitute a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 - drafted to end 
the 2006 July War between Israel and Hizbullah and which stipulates no arms be 
present in south Lebanon outside of state control. 

"In 2006, many of their missiles were basically out in the open, in silos and 
the Israeli air force was able to neutralize a great number of them," the 
ambassador said. 

"Today those same missiles have been placed under hospitals, and homes and 
schools because Hizbullah knows full well if we try to defend ourselves against 
them, we will be branded once again as war criminals," he claimed. 

"We know Hizbullah has in violation of UN resolutions once again penetrated 
southern Lebanon, transformed entire villages into armed camps and put in about 
15,000 rockets along the Israeli border," Oren added. 

Reports from Shehabiyeh suggested that men resembling Hizbullah members had 
blocked initial Army and UNIFIL investigation teams from entering the blast 
site. Individuals with communications equipment were seen confiscating rolls of 
film from journalists and noting reporters' license plates at the scene. 

UNIFIL spokesperson Neeraj Singh said that an investigation into the blasts was 
under way and that members of the probe were given free access to the building 
in question over the weekend. 

"We have our investigations ongoing although we don't have an investigation 
report yet. UNIFIL has been on top of things from the time the incident 
happened," Singh told The Daily Star. 

"The Sector West Commander [Brigadier General Giuseppe Nicola Tota] went to the 
spot and went into the house in which the incident happened. We have had good 
cooperation with the Lebanese Army on this and maintained a substantial 
presence in the area," Singh said. 

"On [Saturday] morning an investigation team visited the spot. It all went 
smoothly and there was no obstruction whatsoever," he added. 

A suspected Hizbullah arms cache exploded last summer close to the village of 
Khirbet Silim. In October 2009, a rocket blew up in a garage at Tayr Felsay. 
Hizbullah denied involvement in both blasts. - With AP, AFP

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