In an opinion piece published by Lebanese media, the IDF spokesman warned the people of Lebanon of the growing Iranian military influence in their country and the danger it poses.
By Margot Dudkevitch
In a rare move, Israeli army spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis warned the people of Lebanon on Sunday of the danger in allowing Iran to strengthen its grip in the country.
“Lebanon is turning into one big missile factory while much of the international community looks the other way,” he stated.
Manelis made the comments in an Arabic-language opinion piece that appeared on several Lebanese websites and in Arab publications. He also warned the Lebanese population that Iran and Hezbollah are attempting to build a precision missile factory in the country.
His warnings come amid Israeli army estimates that Hezbollah has replenished its weapons stocks since the Second Lebanon War 11 years ago. According to IDF intellegence, the terror group has some 100,000 short-range rockets and missiles, has extended its tunnel systems near Israel’s border, and is able to mobilize close to 30,000 fighters. Hezbollah has also increased its military capabilities, which were displayed when it fought alongside regime forces in Syria.
“The past year has been further proof that Hezbollah serves as an operational arm of Iran, wherever there is instability,” Manelis wrote, noting that wherever Iran’s fingerprint has been identified, Hezbollah’s involvement has been discovered.
At the same time, Manelis emphasized that in the past 11 years, civilians on both sides of the border have enjoyed calm. “This is a significant achievement of the Second Lebanon War and the best proof of stability of Israel’s deterrence,” he wrote.
He also revealed, however, that here are now some 200 villages in south Lebanon that have been turned into military strongholds, allowing Hezbollah to monitor the movements of Israeli civilians and soldiers. “The ordinary citizen will be mistaken to think that this process turns Lebanon into a fortress. It is nothing more than a barrel of gunpowder on which he, his family and property are sitting,” Manelis wrote. He added that one in every three or four houses in southern Lebanon is either a Hezbollah headquarters, a post, a hideout or a weapons depot. Israel, he said, knows the locations of these sites and, if required, could attack the positions accurately.
“The future of Lebanese citizens is in the hands of a dictator who sits in Tehran. I think it is right to warn the residents of Lebanon of the Iranian game playing with their security and their future,” Manelis concluded.