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      Large Hizbullah Training Exercise in S. Lebanon; Israel Reacts

      According to a Lebanese newspaper, the exercise, involving thousands of Hizbullah gunmen, took place in close proximity to the Israeli border.
      By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
      First Publish: 11/5/2007, 11:25 PM

      A Lebanese newspaper, Al-Akhbar, reported on Monday that the Hizbullah terrorist organization held a large training exercise in southern Lebanon over the past three days. According to the report, thousands of Hizbullah gunmen trained in close proximity to the northern Israeli border.

      IDF forces on the border and UN soldiers stationed in southern Lebanon
      UN soldiers stationed in southern Lebanon reportedly did nothing more than observe the exercise.
      closely observed the exercise. Israeli sources noted that Hizbullah fighters who moved south of the Litani river during the exercise were not armed, in accordance with international agreements.

      Hizbullah attempted to maintain secrecy about the large-scale training, but senor members of the terrorist group later confirmed the Al-Akhbar report.

      The exercise allegedly indicated that rockets and missiles currently in the Hizbullah arsenal are able to strike anywhere deep inside Israeli territory including Tel Aviv. Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah oversaw the large training operation personally.

      Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora denied that any large Hizbullah exercise took place, saying that the newspaper report was probably just about a "simulation" of some kind.

      Later on Monday, it was reported that Israeli warplanes dropped flares over the southern coast of Lebanon. The overflight mission was apparently executed in response to the Hizbullah training exercise.

      A large-scale exercise by Hizbullah would be consistent with a report from several days ago by the French newspaper Le Figaro that Hizbullah, a Shiite terrorist organization, is expanding its foothold in Lebanon. In particular, the newspaper noted that Hizbullah control and activity is not limited to the area north of the Litani River; rather, the group has reconstituted its strength in southern Lebanon, as well, including in those areas under official UNIFIL control.

      According to Le Figaro, witnesses in southern Lebanon saw caravans of trucks moving into the area and Hizbullah men digging inside orchards and then immediately covering over the ditches they dug. They also heard suspicious explosions.

      A French military source said that the Lebanese government was aware of the stepped up Hizbullah activity south of the Litani. "Yet, for now, it is not doing a thing about it," the French source added.