Lebanon border
Lebanon borderIsrael news photo: Flash 90

A Lebanese and Shi’ite website have quoted an unconfirmed report that Hizbullah has deployed 5,000 terrorist fighters near Israel’s northern border. Although the original report in the American-based World Tribune was based on anonymous sources, its publication in the Arab world may further escalate the tension that has resulted in Israel, Syria and Hizbullah exchanging charges of saber rattling.

Israeli military intelligence officers are reported to have evidence of deployments in Shi’ite villages, many of which were used by Hizbullah in the 34-day Second Lebanon War four years ago.

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi warned in Rome Monday night that  “Hizbullah is replicating sections of southern Lebanon underground, and is building an underground infrastructure of command centers and rocket launchers, mostly within the Shi'ite villages in southern Lebanon, as well as other parts of Lebanon."

The reports quoted by the Arab sites note that Hizbullah is said to have staked out posts within civilian population centers at homes, schools and hospitals.

The IDF recently completed a massive training session for thousands of active and reserve soldiers in the north, complete with mock urban Lebanese villages, in preparation for what some officers say is a growing certainty of an outbreak of violence.

Intelligence reports estimate that Hizbullah possess 60,000-80,000 rockets, more than three times its stockpile before the war in 2006. Many of the rockets have a much longer range, and Israel has supplied the United States with evidence that Syria has transferred the deadly Scud missile to Hizbullah in Lebanon as well.