Hezbollah has stockpiled thousands of rockets, Israelis claim
Allegations contained in report to Security Council
Israel has said Hezbollah is rearming and has an arsenal that includes 10,000 long-range rockets and 20,000 short-range rockets in southern Lebanon, according to a report from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Ban's report to the Security Council, obtained by The Associated Press on Monday, did not confirm Israel's claim. But the UN chief reiterated his concern about Hezbollah's public statements and persistent reports pointing to breaches of a UN arms embargo, which bans weapons transfers to the militant Islamic group.
Ban also expressed concern at "the threats of open war against Israel" by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah has accused Israel of trying to start a new war by assassinating a top Hezbollah commander and warned it would be a battle the Jewish state would lose.
Israel has denied involvement in the Feb. 12 car bombing in Syria that killed Imad Mughniyeh.
The secretary-general's report focused on implementation of the UN cease-fire resolution that ended the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in August 2006. The resolution reiterates a call for the disarming of all militias and bans arms transfers to them.
"Reports of Hezbollah rearming are a cause of great concern, posing serious violations of the resolution and constitute a significant threat to the stability and security of Lebanon," he said.
He told the council he continues to believe that the disarmament of Hezbollah and other militias must be part of a Lebanese-led political process that would fully restore the government's authority throughout the country. He expressed regret "that the persistent deterioration of the political climate and the prolonged deadlock" over the election of a new Lebanese president have made it impossible to deal with the disarmament issue.
Tel Aviv within range
In his last report to the council in late October, Ban alleged that Hezbollah had rearmed with new long-range rockets capable of hitting Tel Aviv and tripled its arsenal of C-802 land-to-sea missiles since the 2006 war. He also drew attention to alleged breaches of the arms embargo and the transfer of sophisticated weapons from Iran and Syria — both strong backers of Hezbollah — across the Lebanon-Syria border.
Syria disputed the claim countering that the allegations of weapons smuggling are motivated by political rather than security considerations, Ban said, but Hezbollah's leaders have acknowledged on several occasions that their military capacity had been replenished since the war with Israel.
"I, therefore, remain concerned that this border remains vulnerable to such breaches, which would represent serious violations of the resolution and constitute a significant threat to the stability and security of Lebanon," he said.
After the 2006 war, a beefed-up UN force was stationed in south Lebanon, partially to keep Hezbollah from smuggling weapons into the area.
No evidence found
In Monday's report, Ban said, Israel maintains that Hezbollah "is significantly rebuilding its military presence" inside the UN's area of operations. But he said UN and Lebanese forces have found no evidence so far of new infrastructure.
"In addition to information provided in previous reports, the government of Israel states that Hezbollah's arsenal includes some 10,000 long-range rockets, in addition to some 20,000 short-range rockets," the secretary-general said.
He said Hezbollah denies transferring weapons to the area where the UN force is deployed — a move that would violate the 2006 resolution.
Before the war, Israel estimated that Hezbollah had 13,000 rockets deployed. During the war, Hezbollah bombarded Israel with nearly 4,000 rockets, striking as far south as Hadera, 50 kilometres north of Tel Aviv.
Since the war, Nasrallah has boasted his group possesses anarsenal of rockets that can reach all of Israel, including the main metropolis of Tel Aviv. Shortly after the war, he said the guerrillas had 33,000 rockets.
In the report, Ban also expressed concern that Israeli air violations continue unabated "without any regard for the levels of tension and anger that these actions trigger on the ground."