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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Message: If You Can Exercise, So Can We

Hanan Awarekeh almanartv

06/11/2007 Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Kassem has confirmed that thousands of the party's resistance fighters have staged secret military maneuvers without weapons or uniforms near occupied Palestine's border in southern Lebanon. On Monday Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, reported that Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah personally supervised the maneuvers, which it said were carried out in the last three days and were the biggest ever staged in Lebanon. In an interview with the Lebanese 'OTV' Channel Monday night, Sheikh Kassem said that these maneuvers were meant to deter Israel from launching another assault against Lebanon, and increase Hezbollah’s readiness for any future war. Hezbollah resistance fighters gathered south of the Litani River for an “exercise of defensive nature against an overall Israeli strike”, and to prove that the scope of Hezbollah's missiles could cover the entire territory of Israeli settlements. Sheikh Kassem stressed that UN resolution 1701 was not breached since the maneuvers were carried out without arms, taking into consideration the presence of the UNIFIL and the Lebanese army in the area. Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah said it was only "normal" that the group be fully ready to confront any possible Israeli attack. "Clearly, we will not let Israel carry out aggression against Lebanon while we sit still," he told LBCI TV, referring to the increased Israeli air violations mainly over southern Lebanon in recent days. For his part, Hezbollah's senior official Sheikh Hassan Izzeddine also confirmed the maneuvers. "In response to what the enemy is doing, this maneuver by the Islamic resistance was part of its work and its commitment to always defend Lebanon, its sovereignty and its people."

If Israel Can Do Drill, So Can We
Speaking to The Daily Star in a telephone interview, former senior UNIFIL adviser Timur Goksel said “Hezbollah is sending a political message to Israel. It has always been Hezbollah’s way to respond to Israel in kind," Goksel said.
He added that the message to Israel was simple: "If you can do these exercises, so can we." He also said that by being unarmed and not in uniform during the exercise, Hezbollah did not "legally" violate 1701.

Israeli Reaction
Israeli media dealt with Hezbollah’s maneuvers as a dangerous threat to Israel’s security at a time the Israeli officials refused to comment on the issue. But it was reported that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has raised the issue in a meeting with the Foreign and Security Committee. Some Israeli security officials were quoted as saying that Israel has to send a suitable warning in response to these maneuvers and urged Israel to do something about them and not to hide behind its fingers. The Israeli media also denied what the head of the unconstitutional government Fouad Saniora had earlier said that the maneuvers did not take place and that they were, in fact, "simulations."

Saniora on Monday said that authorities checked with military and police units as well as the UNIFIL and "they confirmed nothing on the ground really happened." "It was, let's say, a simulation probably, in an operation room, on the desk, probably they did such a thing," he claimed. "This has been confirmed by all the sources."

Israeli Channel 10 said that the Hezbollah maneuvers were the most public yet. "This was not a simulation on papers, as Saniora had claimed, this is what we call leadership training in many south Lebanese regions including south of the Litani River. The Israeli army had monitored the whole process. It was not only of defensive nature, but was offensive as well."

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