Village in southern Lebanon
Village in southern Lebanon Israel news photo: Flash 90

The IDF has taken the unusual step of revealing to the press the precise location of Hizbullah hideouts in southern Lebanon. A Northern Command officer showed an Associated Press reporter the Hizbullah outposts visible from the Lebanon border.

Many outposts are hidden in civilian areas - but one actually takes shelter in a home for mentally handicapped children in the southern Lebanon village of Aita al-Shaab.

IDF officials also pointed out weapons warehouses, some of which are located in civilian homes.

Hizbullah limits access to southern Lebanon, and often follows those journalists who are allowed into the area to ensure that they do not reveal sensitive information. United Nations troops tasked with patrolling the area say they are unable to confirm or deny the IDF's accusations, as they are not permitted to search private property.

However, explosions in southern Lebanon in 2009 indicate that Hizbullah has in fact continued storing weapons and rockets in civilian villages.

Israel's willingness to share intelligence about Hizbullah activity is seen as a preemptive measure in case of conflict with Hizbullah or Lebanon. Israel was widely condemned for Lebanese civilian deaths during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. By warning in advance that Hizbullah is using civilians as shields, Israeli officials are apparently hoping to prove that the terrorist group is to blame for any future civilian deaths.

The sharing of intelligence may also serve as a warning to Hizbullah that Israel knows the locations of its weapons caches and battle stations, and is prepared to take them out quickly in case of an open war.

The IDF's open approach follows an exchange of fire between Israeli and Lebanese soldiers on the northern border two weeks ago. Lebanese troops opened fire as Israeli workers pruned a tree on the Israeli side of the international border; they later claimed that the tree was located on Lebanon's side of the border.

IDF Major-General Gadi Eisenkot concluded that the incident was “a planned ambush” on the IDF. One Israeli soldier and four Lebanese were killed in the clash.