Assad and Nasrallah
Assad and Nasrallah Israel news photo montage

Syria has helped Hizbullah entrench itself in northern Lebanon with 40,000 long-range missiles and 10,000 militia men, increasing its war capability against Israel, the French daily Le Figaro reported Tuesday.

The newspaper said that U.S. intelligence radar screens picked up the transfer of missiles as far back as last January, between Damascus and the Syrian-Lebanese border. The addition of 40,000 missiles, most of them made in Iran, gives the Hizbullah terrorist organization the capability of attacking Israel from north of the Litani River, out of sight of United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) forces who are supposed to hold Hizbullah at bay in the south.

Even in the south, Hizbullah has easily circumvented UNIFIL, building a maze of underground tunnels and bunkers and storing many weapons in mosques, fire stations and schools. Israeli intelligence officers estimate that Hizbullah possesses at least 60,000 missiles under the noses of UNIFIL, three times the number of rockets it had stockpiled at the start of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006.

Le Figaro’s publication of the supply line of weapons from Syria offers further proof that Syria has effectively used Hizbullah to retain its strong influence in the country, wracked by a 15-year civil war until a few years ago and still suffering from political instability.

The United States pressured Syria to withdraw its forces after the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, a former anti-Syrian prime minister of Lebanon. However, Damascus – with the combined efforts of Iran – maintains its influence through Hizbullah and its pro-Syrian political allies.

Le Figaro published details on Hizbullah ground and missile units that are supplied by Syria, often under cover of power blackouts and through tunnels underneath the northeastern border with Lebanon. The newspaper said that Hizbullah practices using the missiles in Syria because it does not have large enough camps in Lebanon.