Mysterious blasts in Lebanon – the work of Israeli SOF?

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Oct. 22 (UPI) — Mysterious explosions in South Lebanon, reportedly involving covert Israeli operations to eavesdrop on Hezbollah’s secret communications network, have heightened tension after two alleged guerrilla arms dumps were blown up in recent weeks.

Israeli media reports have implied that Israeli Special Forces teams were responsible for the wiretapping operations a mile or more inside Lebanese territory where Hezbollah is thick on the ground, and were behind the explosions at the supposed arms caches.

There is, of course, no conclusive evidence that Israel commandos were responsible for any of these incidents, presumably intended to unnerve Hezbollah as it rebuilds its military forces after the 2006 war with Israel.

But for some weeks, the Israeli military has been claiming that Hezbollah has an estimated 300 arms caches hidden in houses and other civilian buildings in most of the 160 villages, almost exclusively Shiite, dotted around the panhandle south of the Litani River, a Hezbollah stronghold.

litani river area

southern lebanon 

The Israelis have repeatedly claimed that the Lebanese army, deployed in the Shiite-dominated south under the U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended the 34-day 2006 war, and the 13,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in the south have done nothing to eliminate these alleged dumps, which violate Security Council Resolution 1701.

So, analysts suspect, they may be doing it themselves.

Since 2006 the Israelis have conducted a major intensification of their intelligence-gathering operations in Lebanon.

Since late 2008 Lebanese security authorities and Hezbollah’s counter-intelligence apparatus have rounded up some 70 suspected agents — nearly all Lebanese citizens — who allegedly were spying for Israel’s intelligence services.

Their main mission was to track and locate senior Hezbollah commanders and officials, their safe houses and command centers, as well as the movement’s arsenals, particularly its underground missile depots.

These cells, which included a retired general in the internal security service, two serving army colonels and a former mayor, were also involved in the assassination of several Hezbollah leaders and Palestinian radicals in recent years, according to Lebanese authorities.

One of the main targets of this vast espionage operation inside Lebanon, unprecedented in its scope and intensity, was to penetrate the elaborate fiber-optic communications system Hezbollah has constructed to boost its capabilities in any future conflict with Israel.

This has been done since 2006, linking the southern front along the border north to Beirut and on to the Hezbollah heartland in the Bekaa Valley in the northwest of the country along the border with Syria, a vital supply route for arms and supplies.

bekaa valley map

The Lebanese army has said that the Israelis destroyed two wiretapping devices themselves with remote-controlled explosive charges once they had been uncovered in south Lebanon Saturday and Sunday. A third device was blown up by Lebanese troops.

The widespread arrests have undoubtedly seriously damaged Israel’s intelligence capabilities inside Lebanon.

Arab military analysts suspect that the Israelis are having to engage in more aggressive and innovative tactics to keep Hezbollah off balance while trying to rebuild its secret agent networks in Lebanon — no easy task with so many operatives rounded up.

It is difficult to determine whether the Israelis are engaging in actual covert operations or simply seeking to spook Hezbollah with some pyrotechnics and a lot of disinformation in the twilight war in South Lebanon.

“Hezbollah can no longer deny that a mysterious hand is at work destroying its weapons depots and the logistical infrastructure it has installed in South Lebanon. They believe this hand belongs to the Israeli army’s special operations units,” according to Debkafile, an Israeli Web site.

israeli sof

It specializes in security matters and is widely seen in the Arab world as a conduit for Israeli intelligence to dispense disinformation.

Still, the events of recent weeks have caused some jitters in the south, for decades the only hot front in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israel occupied the south from March 1978 to May 2000, when it unilaterally withdrew under constant Hezbollah attack.

With Hezbollah currently armed with some 40,000 rockets — by Israeli count — that would be unleashed if Iran, Hezbollah’s master, was ever attacked, Israel will go on probing, and provoking, Hezbollah to spy out the changing battle space in south Lebanon.

Expect more mysterious explosions.

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