Local residents have noted increased activity by Hizballah’s fighters south of Litani River where the terrorist organization appears to be building a new line of defense, according to a report by The Times of London.
The Shiite group is building its defenses in a United Nations-controlled zone in south Lebanon in preparation for a potential conflict with Israel, according to the newspaper. A UN resolution that ended fighting between Hizballah and Israel last summer ordered a peacekeeping force keep Hizballah out of the area.
Hizballah gunmen, however, have been guarding valleys and hillsides north of the Litani River where a military build-up is taking shape. The Times also reported that Christian and Druze-owned land is being purchased by a Shia businessman, a move believed to be aimed at creating a Shia-populated belt south of the Litani where the group can operate safely. Ali Tajiddine, a Shia businessman who traded in diamonds in West Africa, has been buying swaths of land from Christians and Druze, the Times said.
“The state of Hizballah is already in existence in south Lebanon,” Druze leader Walid Jumblatt told The Times.
Times reporter Nicholas Blanford said that two armed Hizballah fighters wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying walkie-talkies stopped him on his way to southern Lebanon and “politely but firmly” asked him for identification. They told him the area was off limits.
“We have evidence to support their presence there. It seems to be an expansion of what was there before the war,” the Times quoted a western diplomat as saying.