Israeli army officials are reporting weekly arms shipments from Syria to the terrorist group Hizballah based in southern Lebanon, despite the presence of United Nations peacekeepers.
Officers in the army’s Northern Command told Vice Premier Shimon Peres on Tuesday that the deliveries are usually made at night, evading UNIFIL peacekeepers stationed in Lebanon.
Peres visited the Lebanese border to learn about preparations for a possible regional flare-up in the near future. He said “there is no need for hysteria” and that Hizballah had not regained its strength.
“They have not restored their weapons stockpiles to the level they were before the war,” he said.
But this contradicts the assessment of Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Military Intelligence's Research Division, who told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that Hizballah had “returned to its pre-war capabilities and has even become stronger.”
Peres sided with Defense Minister Amir Peretz who told the same panel that "Hizballah has not increased its strength, but merely its potential."
"We know Hizballah is reequipping itself with arms, and this is a catastrophe, first and foremost for Lebanon itself," said Peres. "Lebanon is about to get $7.5 billion in aid, and if Hizballah attempts to misbehave, it will destroy the country," he said.
He did say he believes the UN force deployed in Lebanon is far more effective than previous versions, but that UNIFIL must take increased measures to stop the smuggling of arms to Hizballah.