MidEast

French President Macron: “I Share Israeli Concerns on the Arming of Hezbollah in Lebanon”

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday denounced the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah’s ongoing military buildup in Lebanon.

“I share Israeli concerns on the arming of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon,” Macron told reporters after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris. “We seek Lebanon’s stability with due regard to all minorities.”

Hezbollah warned earlier this year that its rockets could reach any target in Israeli territory.

Iran is believed to be building underground weapons factories for its proxy in Lebanon, one of which reportedly produces Fateh 110 rockets that can carry half-ton warheads and reach most of Israel.

Iran is banned from exporting weapons by the United Nations Security Council, and is specifically forbidden from arming Hezbollah by Security Council resolution 1701.

Earlier this month, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot told a Knesset committee that Israel was aware of the factories and was “working against it using quiet measures to avoid a deterioration of the situation.”

Last month, Eisenkot warned that Hezbollah has a presence in “every third or fourth house” in southern Lebanon. He indicated that the group is ensconced in some 240 villages and towns in the area, and receives sophisticated weaponry from Iran, some of which is supplied by Russia.

Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, commander of the Israeli Air Force, explained the following day that Hezbollah has established thousands of bases in Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, and southern Lebanon, both “above and below live civilians whom we have nothing against—a kind of human shield.”

“That is where we will have to fight” in the event of a future conflict, he added. “Whoever stays in these bases will simply be hit and will risk their lives. And whoever goes out will live.”

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened last month that thousands of Shiite fighters, including from Iran and Iraq, could join forces with Hezbollah in a future war against Israel.

According to a July 2016 report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Israeli officials believe that any future war with Hezbollah has the potential to cause “thousands of civilian deaths” in Israel. Hezbollah has, among other things, threatened to attack ammonium tanks in Haifa, which could kill tens of thousands of people.

Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explained that month that Hezbollah’s widely-reported tactic of hiding military assets in civilian areas would lead to mass casualties. Reports emerged in 2013 that Hezbollah was offering reduced-price housing to Shiite families who allowed the terrorist group to store rocket launchers in their homes. An Israeli defense official told The New York Times in May 2015 that the buildup of Hezbollah’s terror infrastructure in southern Lebanese villages meant that “civilians are living in a military compound” and that their lives were at risk. A few days later, a newspaper linked to Hezbollah bolstered the Israeli assessment.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel, a former director of Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau, said in March that another war between Israel and Hezbollah was “only a question of time” due to the Iranian proxy’s efforts to acquire “game-changing weapons.” A week later, Eisenkot assessed that Hezbollah is building up its arsenal in Lebanon, which will bear the brunt of any future conflict between the Iranian proxy and Israel. Israeli security officials warned earlier in March that the Lebanese army, which receives American military aid, will likely fight alongside Hezbollah in a war against Israel.

[Photo: Mutualité Française / flickr]