VIDEO - Hizbullah
has grown three times stronger than at the end of the Second Lebanon War, Defense Minister Ehud Barak
told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.
"They have 42,000 missiles now, which could also reach Ashkelon, Beersheba and Dimona. The radical axis of Iran,
and Hizbullah is becoming stronger compared to the axis of the more moderate countries," he added.
Video courtesy of Infolive.tv
As for Hizbullah's recent exercises
in southern Lebanon,
Barak said this proves that UN Resolution 1701
is not working.
"Hizbullah's involvement in the state of Lebanon, this identity, exposes Lebanon and its infrastructures to deeper damage in case of a future conflict," he noted.
During the Knesset meeting, Barak also addressed the Iranian nuclear threat,
saying that Tehran "continues to fool the world and is working vigorously to advance its military nuclear program.
According to the defense minister, Israel
is not taking any option off the table. "We recommend that others don't take any option off the table as well. Any additional statements could only cause damage," he said.
He mentioned the global economic crisis as the key factor which will influence security-related decisions, and referred to another country: "Pakistan is one deep instability, a country with abilities. It's no less dangerous than Iran on the global level." Barak with former Defense Minister Peretz at Knesset (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Moving on to Damascus, Barak said that "on the one hand, Syria helps Hizbullah and has an intimate relationship with it, and is involved in Lebanon's political processes.
"The State of Israel is interested in removing Syria from the circle of conflict. The talks with Syria are a positive thing which must be carried out in a responsible, serious and accurate manner."
According to head of the research division of Military Intelligence, Brigadier-General Yossi Baidatz, "Syria's relations with Britain and France are flourishing… The Syrians are expressing their interest to continue their talks with Israel, but are skeptical as for Israel's willingness and ability to carry out a withdrawal. At the same time, they continue to arm Hizbullah."
Addressing the Gilad Shalit
issue, Baidatz said, "At the moment we don't see any flexibility on this matter on the part of Hamas."
Barak later spoke during a special Knesset session on the situation in the south. "I, who was a fighter and a commander, do not need you to preach me morals," he told right-wing Knesset members. "You won't teach me about war and peace and about responsibility."
Barak also referred to the issue of bolstering the Palestinian Authority, after approving
the entry of Palestinian police officers to Bethlehem. "I see great importance in what is happening in Jenin and Hebron. The Palestinian security forces are somewhat stronger, in terms of law and order, halting money transfers, arresting Hamas activists. Even if this isn't the effectiveness we'd like to see, the activity taking place there is important nonetheless."
Earlier, Barak told the committee that the number of Qassam rockets and mortar shells fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip was significantly reduced during the ceasefire period.
"In the months before the truce there were 500 incidents of high-trajectory fire every month. Since the beginning of the lull,
we've had about 10 such incidents a month," he said, adding that "I don't regret one month of calm."
Barak noted that over the past two and a half weeks – since the IDF uncovered a tunnel
in the Gaza Strip aimed at executing terror attacks – a rise has been recorded in the rocket fire directed at Israel,
and that the number of rockets and mortars has been stable in the past few days.
Earlier Monday, Barak decided to allow the entry of humanitarian equipment into Gaza. Basic food products and medications will be brought into the Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing.
The decision to allow the entry of humanitarian equipment into Gaza was made following consultations between the defense minister, his deputy Matan Vilnai and security officials.
Sources at the defense minister's office said Sunday that if Hamas upholds the ceasefire and refrains from launching Qassam rockets for 24 consecutive hours, Barak will instruct the security establishment to open the goods crossings.
Meanwhile, Gaza vicinity communities are living in fear. On Sunday, Palestinian gunmen fired a Qassam rocket from northern Gaza. The rocket exploded in an open area near the Sdot Negev Regional Council. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
Hanan Greenberg contributed to this report