Daily Israel Report

A Weak Lebanon to Leave Hizbullah Armed

Lebanese media reported Tuesday that the government of Lebanon agreed to continued Hizbullah armed activity in the country - overtly, north of the Litani River, and covertly, south of it.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 8/15/2006, 8:59 PM / Last Update: 8/15/2006, 10:07 PM

According to Lebanese reports, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora met with his parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri last night to discuss possible resolutions of the matter of arms held by sectarian militias, chief among them the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hizbullah. Berri, a Muslim, is also the head of the pro-Syrian Shi'ite Amal movement and affiliated militia.

The reported compromise proposal drafted by Berri and Siniora, which is being presented to the Lebanese parliament, would allow Hizbullah to continue to remain armed within certain guidelines. North of the Litani River, Hizbullah would continue to openly maintain its weapons, according to the proposal, but south of the Litani, weapons would be permitted to Hizbullah forces only so long as the arms remained concealed. The proposal defers discussion of the final status of Hizbullah arms north of the Litani to later, long-term negotiations.

The Litani River bisects Lebanon and runs from between 4 and 40 kilometers from the Israeli border with Lebanon.

On Monday, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr stated that his nation's army would not disarm the Hizbullah, but that only the Lebanese military and UNIFIL will carry arms south of the Litani River. However, Murr said in a television interview, "The army is not going to be deployed in southern Lebanon in order to disarm Hizbullah, something that Israel was unable to do in its war." The army is to be deployed, he said, "in order to protect the civilians and to maintain the achievements of the resistance [the Hizbullah]."

Meanwhile, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah claimed on Monday night that the Lebanese army is currently unable to defend Lebanon from Israel. In any event, Nasrallah said that the matter of arms held by paramilitary groups should be handled far from public view.

The Lebanese As-Safir newspaper reported that representatives of the IDF, UNIFIL and the Lebanese army reached an agreement Monday night that IDF forces would withdraw Wednesday from southern Lebanon, to be replaced by an enlarged UNIFIL force. This first hand-over of military control is to be completed in one day, while the Lebanese army is to begin deploying in southern Lebanon immediately thereafter. The Lebanese defense minister said that it would take approximately three to six days for the national armed forces to fully take over.

Weapons and defense researcher Yiftach Shapir, of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, told Arutz Sheva Radio today that the Lebanese army has neither the capability nor the will to confront the forces of the Hizbullah.

"It should be remembered that, contrary to what the official numbers say - that the Shi'ite population is less than a third of the total population [of Lebanon] - in fact, it is almost 50%. In the army the proportion is even greater, particularly among the officers. Those numbers reach about 60%. While not all of them are extremists, the question is whether or not they would have any desire to violently confront the [Shi'ite] Hizbullah." Shapir explained.

In addition, most of the Lebanese military equipment and weaponry is hopelessly out of date, Shapir claims, noting that the national armed forces are all conscript and career officers, with no reserve units to speak of.