Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Keeping the Peace

Perhaps because they are too busy scanning the skies for Israeli planes to shoot down, U.N. forces in southern Lebanon seem uninterested in stopping Hezbollah rearming, and doing so in a way that directly put civilians and their property in danger:

Hizbollah has stepped up the rebuilding of its military infrastructure in southern Lebanon despite the deployment in recent weeks of thousands of Lebanese troops and international peacekeepers to limit the Islamic militant group's activities.

Standing firm against international pressure to disarm, the Shia group is rearming and rebuilding tunnels and trenches destroyed by the Israeli army during this summer's 34-day war.

Locals in Bint Jbeil, a town which saw fierce fighting, told yesterday how Hizbollah was using the major reconstruction efforts to rebuild their security infrastructure.

"They are working extremely fast," said one, who did not want to be named. "Militants in Shia strongholds have interconnected tunnels and bunkers under their houses. These are being rebuilt under cover of the reconstruction work."
But what's new? Yesterday, in news reported in every media outlet from the Washington Times to the, er... Washington Times, we learned that:
details are now known of a secret Hezbollah operation, mounted long before the war and focused, in violation of international law, on putting civilians at risk, that significantly contributed to this toll once the fighting began.
The activity upon which Hezbollah had embarked was conversion of private homes into mini-military sites from where it could easily target Israel's civilian population. Cloaking itself as the protective shepherd, Hezbollah effectively prepared an unwitting Lebanese civilian flock as sacrificial lambs to be slaughtered in furtherance of its own war-fighting capabilities.
Long before hostilities erupted on July 12, Hezbollah construction teams had gone out and modified numerous Lebanese homes. Sometimes with, but most the time without, the homeowner's permission, workers began adding on a large, single-function room. These rooms were unique for, when completed, they lacked an essential element of all rooms -- a door. Each room was sealed shut -- but only, and immediately, after an object was placed inside.
Often homeowners and neighbors did not know what exactly was entombed within the room as the object's insertion and the subsequent sealing of the room normally took place at night -- with the object always kept under wraps.
The residences Hezbollah selected for these unsolicited "home improvements" were chosen for their proximity to the Israeli border. When the fighting started after Tel Aviv responded militarily to Hezbollah's July cross-border raid, resulting in the deaths of three Israeli soldiers and the capture of two more, the purpose of the covert home improvements became evident to the owners -- though many were destroyed by Israeli air strikes before they could be activated.
When war erupted in southern Lebanon, designated leaders of Hezbollah combat teams received envelopes, each containing an address of one of the modified homes. The team quickly deployed to its assigned location, immediately breaking through an exterior wall of the sealed room. Each envelope contained aiming and firing instructions for the object prepositioned inside the room before it was sealed -- a surface-to-surface missile atop a launcher. After removing part of the room's roof to allow for unobstructed flight and on command, the team was to fire the missile, raining death and destruction down upon Israel's civilian population.
There was one major flaw in Hezbollah's home-conversion-to-missile-launch-site plan: Their construction activities had not gone unnoticed by Israeli intelligence. Closely monitoring Hezbollah's activities, they knew in advance the locations of most sites. As each room was completed, it had been added to Israel's target list so, once fighting started, it could quickly be destroyed -- its civilian hosts in many cases becoming collateral damage due to Hezbollah's illegal use of such a tactic.
I hear the distant echo of cheers for the U.N. coming from the direction of Srebrinica.

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