Hezbollah intends to wage its next war against Israel from deep within Syria, according to areporton a pro-Hezbollah news site last week.
The report, found on the web site Ya Sour, quoted Hezbollah sources saying the group intends to fire long-range projectiles at the Jewish state from the Qalamoun and Anti-Lebanon Mountain ranges, areas firmly under the Shiite group’s control on both the Syrian and Lebanese sides of the border.
There is reason to suspect that Hezbollah has indeed built up a missile arsenal in those areas, particularly as the city of Baalbek, the heartland of its Beqaa Valley stronghold, lies nearby. Israeli airstrikes against the group in Syria have been concentrated in Qalamoun. Moreover, a spokesman for the opposition’s Syrian National Salvation Front, named Fahd al-Masri, said in Dec. 2016 that Hezbollah was nearing completion of a tunnel in the Zabadani valley linking these two areas. Hezbollah seeks to facilitate the transfer of weapons and “reinforce its presence in the strategically important areas” in the western Damascus countryside, which includes Qalamoun, according to al-Masri.
Earlier in 2016, satellite images revealed a Hezbollah weapons warehouse slightly north of that area in Qusayr, where the group reportedly housed Katyusha rockets, mortars and howitzers. Reports also claimed Hezbollah was storing longer-range, Iranian-produced ballistic missiles there, including the Shahab-1, Shahab-2 and Fateh-110/M-600, which the organization could use to strike Israel. Intelligence has long suspected that Hezbollah possesses these missiles, but that has not been confirmed.
The Hezbollah sources told Ya Sour that the group was shifting its missile operations to the Qalamoun and Anti-Lebanon Mountain range because it would be easier “to camouflage the rockets and protect their storehouses and launchers from the danger of Israeli military planes.” They added that the Qalamoun’s vast expanses made the region ideal for easily and safely firing long-range ballistic missiles at Israel.
This latest report coincides with others that Hezbollah has transferred its longer-range rockets to Syria as part of a restructuring of its forces, as they require launching pads too large to be hidden in Lebanon from Israel’s aerial surveillance.
Hezbollah has good reason to prefer placing its longer-range weapons in Syria. This would place those projectiles out of range of IDF ground troops, and could be hidden in the Syrian army’s hardened shelters to better insulate them from air strikes. On the second day of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, it took the Israeli Air Force 34 minutes to destroy most of Hezbollah’s medium and long-range missiles tucked away in the rugged Lebanese terrain.
By dispersing the weapons across the Qalamoun Mountains, Hezbollah would complicate Israel’s task of replicating that success. Israeli jets would now have to cover a much larger area to locate and destroy these rockets, while also worrying about ducking Syrian and Russian air defenses.
Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has had a busy week meeting with UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson in Jerusalem, President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and then back to Jerusalem for a five hour meeting with President Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations—Jason Greenblatt.
The framework for these meetings was set by Netanyahu—who told Johnson:
“It’s evident that we agree on most things, but not on all things. And one of the things, I think the source of it when you analyze a problem, get to its roots and reason that we haven’t had peace for a hundred years is not the settlements, but the persistent refusal to recognize a nation-state for the Jewish people in any boundary. I think if you want to solve a problem, go to the core of the problem, and that is something I look forward to discussing with you further.”
Netanyahu’s claim is substantiated by the following facts:
* Settlements were not the problem when the first two-state solution was proposed by article 25 of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine in 1922.
That solution - which envisaged allocating the Arabs 78% of Mandatory Palestine [Transjordan] and the Jews the remaining 22% - was rejected by the Arabs but accepted by the Jews.
* Settlements were not the problem in 1937 when the Peel Commission recommended partition of the territory of the Mandate into one Jewish State and one Arab State—again rejected by the Arabs but accepted by the Jews.
* Transjordan remained part of the Mandate for Palestine until Great Britain granted it independence on 22 March 1946. 78% of the Mandate territory was thus irrevocably transformed into an exclusive Arabs-only State contrary to article 5 of the Mandate.
* The United Nations recommendation to partition the remaining 22 % of the Mandate territory into one Arab State and one Jewish State in November 1947 was again rejected by the Arabs and accepted by the Jews—culminating in Western Palestine being invaded in May 1948 by six Arab armies and the forcible eviction of all Jews living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
* Settlements were not the problem between 1948 and 1967 when another Arab State could have been created with the stroke of an Arab League pen in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza whilst not one Jew lived there.
* Offers by Israel in 2000/2001 and 2008 to another Arab State being created in Gaza and the West Bank were rejected by the Arabs.
Gaza is ruled by Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization governs Areas A and B of the West Bank. Both have held onto power without holding elections since 2006. Both refuse to recognize a Jewish nation-state in any boundaries.
Netanyahu should never tire of telling world leaders that the 100 years old Jewish-Arab conflict will not be resolved until the Arabs recognise the right of the Jewish people to their own independent State.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held his second meeting this week with US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, on Thursday for further discussions that focused heavily on West Bank settlements but apparently failed to reach and agreement.
Netanyahu and Greenblatt made “progress on the issue of Israeli settlement construction following up on President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s agreement in Washington last month to work out an approach that reflects both leaders’ views,” said a statement from Netanyahu’s office issued after the three-hour meting.
“Those discussions are continuing between the White House and the Prime Minister’s Office,” it said.
The discussions also explored prospects for renewing peace talks and bolstering the Palestinian economy.
Channel 2 TV reported that Netanyahu made clear to Greenblatt during the meeting that there would be no political possibility of freezing settlement activity, implying that he would not have his coalition’s backing.
Netanyahu and the Trump White House have been trying to reach an understanding on Israeli settlement activity since last month’s meeting between the Israeli leader and the US president, who in a joint press conference told Netanyahu that he wanted him to “hold back” on the settlements.
Netanyahu has been trying to get the White House’s approval for the construction of a new settlement — the first in some 25 years — to replace the illegal outpost of Amona, which was evacuated and demolished last month.
Before the meeting with Greenblatt on Thursday, Netanyahu vowed that he would fulfill his promise to Amona residents to establish the new settlement.
Following last year’s massive die-off of Alaskan seabirds, scientists still looking for answers… “Geographically and that it lasted a year, that’s unprecedented, [Kathy Kuletz, a biologist with US Fish & Wildlife Service]… “it’s certainly well over a hundred thousand and it could go many times that.”… “I would say possibly hundreds of thousands were killed… Almost always it’s been starvation… Sea birds are top predators,” [Heather Renner, biologist with Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge] said. “They’re sort of sentinels for our environment. They have definitely let us know that there’s change going on in the ocean ecosystem”… Renner says [the birds had an] exceptionally low birthing season… This reproductive die-off meant a “total failure” of murre reproduction that year… “The reproductive die off is something we’ve never seen in murres before, widespread. The refuge (AMNWR) has been monitoring these colonies for 4 decades and it’s like nothing we’ve ever observed before,” Renner said…
[T]ens of thousands of common murres… starved and washed ashore on beaches from California to Alaska… “it’s because there’s no fish out there, anywhere, over a very large area,” [John Piatt, biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey] said. To see such effect over two sizeable marine ecosystems is extraordinary, he said… Common murres eat small forage fish [which] were largely absent when the National Marine Fisheries Service conducted surveys in summer 2015… A conservative extrapolation indicates 500,000 or more common murres died, Piatt said. Nearly all were emaciated… “In 2016, we had widespread breeding failure at all of the colonies in the Gulf of Alaska, as well as the Bering Sea,” Renner said. “It was a highly unusual event. Murres don’t fail regularly.”… “They died of starvation because there was no food,” Piatt said. “There was no food because there was no fish.”…