The United Nations has warned Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun not to arm Hezbollah following comments the Hezbollah-friendly president made on Egyptian TV on Sunday.
In a tweet posted on Monday, UN Coordinator Sigird Kaag warned that UN Resolution 1701 prohibits Lebanon from arming Hezbollah
“UN resolution 1701 is vital for Lebanon’s stability and security. The resolution calls for disarmament of all armed groups. No arms outside control of state.”
Israel and Hezbollah fought a deadly 33-day war in 2006, which came to an end under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, The Resolution called for the disarmament of Hezbollah, for withdrawal of the Israeli army from Lebanon, and for the deployment of the Lebanese army and an enlarged UN force in the south.
On Sunday, Aoun defended the weapons that Hezbollah has, saying the arms of the terror group are an essential part in defending Lebanon against Israel.
“Hezbollah weapons are not contradictory to the state, but are an essential part in defending the country. As long as a part of the territory is occupied by Israel, and as long as the army is not powerful enough to fight Israel, we feel the need to maintain the weapons of the resistance to complement the army,” Aoun told the Egyptian TV network CBC satellite channel.
Hezbollah fighters “are originally from the south and their land was occupied” by Israel, Aoun added.
When Hezbollah-friendly Aoun was elected in November he vowed to “release what is left of our lands from the Israeli occupation.”
This past summer Lebanon’s Armed Forces received 50 armored vehicles, 40 artillery pieces and 50 grenade launchers from the United States as part of an aid package to bolster the Middle Eastern country from the threats posed by militant groups.
While the IDF and the LAF have relatively good relations in order to prevent confrontations, a senior IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview that the next war with Hezbollah “will be a real war,” no longer against a militant group, but a full fledged and powerful army, with varying levels of fighting capabilities that include both guerrilla and conventional tactics.
Hezbollah is known to have a massive arsenal of advanced weaponry given to them by their Iranian patrons and the technological advances along with battlefield experience gained by the group in Syria has made it Israel’s most dangerous enemy, more than Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
But Hezbollah is entangled in Syria, with thousands of their soldiers fighting and dying for the regime of Bashar Assad. Some estimates put the number of dead at 1,500, with more than 5,000 others injured.
In a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post, Michael Horowitz, Director of Intelligence at Prime Source, a Middle East based geopolitical consultancy, said that despite their massive battle-field losses, Hezbollah has “gained significant military experience in Syria and therefore Israel would be faced with a force that is capable of waging both guerrilla and asymmetric warfare, as well as more conventional offensives.”
While the IDF thinks the group is unlikely to attack Israel in the near future, the Israeli-Lebanon border remains the most explosive, due in large part to the ongoing military buildup by Hezbollah. According to a senior Israeli intelligence official, Hezbollah has over 100,000 short-range rockets and several thousand more missiles that can reach central Israel, including Tel Aviv.
According to some Israeli analysts, the next war with Hezbollah might see 1,500-2,000 rockets shot into Israel per day, compared to the 150-180 per day during the Second Lebanon war 10 years ago.
According to Horowitz those missiles “could keep Israel under pressure and economic distress for months, while waging a defensive war in Lebanon that requires a lower number of fighters than the one it is fighting in Syria.”
In addition to the massive arsenal of rockets and missiles, Hezbollah is able to mobilize close to 30,000 fighters and has flouted its tunnel system, complete with ventilation, electricity, and rocket launchers. Some 200 villages in south Lebanon have also been turned into “military strongholds” from where Hezbollah militants are able to watch Israeli soldiers at any moment.