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Troops with rocket found in south Lebanon
Photo: AP
Another rocket
Photo: AP
Lebanese army defuses 8 missiles pointed at Israel
Troops operating in southern coastal region discover Grad, Katyusha-type rockets with activated timers set for late Thursday night; Lebanese army says rockets dismantled. IDF: Hizbullah likely not behind launching attempt

Lebanese army officers said troops discovered on Thursday eight Grad and Katyusha-type rockets set up with timers that were on the verge of being launched near the border with Israel.

 

Two senior officers said troops were dismantling the rockets, discovered in the coastal region between Naqoura and Tyre.

 

They said the rockets' timers were activated, and one of the officers said the rockets were to have been fired late Thursday night.

 

Earlier one of the officials said the rockets were "directed toward Israel."  

 

"We are investigating whether they were prepared for launching or for use at a later stage. The expert is dismantling them now," the official told AFP.

 

Based on the type of rockets found, IDF officials estimated that Hizbullah was not directly behind the launching attempt.

 

A number of Lebanese news agencies reported that timers attached to the rockets had been activated and that they had been discovered "shortly before their expected launch times." A UNIFIL force, lead by UNIFIL Commander General Claudio Graziano arrived in the area to oversee the defusing process. The area where the bombs were discovered, some five kilometers from Lebanon's border with Israel, is considered a Hizbullah stronghold.

 


One of the rockets (Photo: Reuters)

 

Despite the location, it's possible that the rockets were set up by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar al-Islam organization - which previously operated out of the Nahr al-Barad Palestinian refugee camp until it was banished from there by the Lebanese army - in order to try and incite violence along the border so as to make trouble for the Lebanese government and military.

 

The group has already fired twice from the region where the rockets were discovered and are suspected of having attacked UNIFIL's Spanish brigade.

 

Hizbullah is estimated to possess some 40,000 missiles and rockets on both sides of the Litani River. The majority of the arsenal is to be found in Hizbullah bunkers north of the Litani and contains long-range warheads capable of reaching targets within 250 km range.

 

All but a few hundred of the rockets in the arsenal are south of the Litani, maintained in fortified, underground bunkers that were built to allow Hizbullah operatives to fight against any invading armored and infantry forces trying to cross the river.

  

In January two rockets landed in the northern Israeli community of Shlomi; one of them landed near a school, but no injuries were reported.

 

Six months prior to that attack 107mm rockets exploded near Kiryat Shmona. Lebanese officials postulated at the time that the rockets were launched by a Palestinian organization as part of its conflict with the Lebanese army.

 

Hizbullah denied any connection to the attack, and the next day a group called "Jihad's Badr Brigades" clamed responsibility for the firing.

 

Israel and Hizbullah fought a devastating 34-day war in the summer of 2006 which killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

 

The group has been accused by the Jewish state of using the time since the end of the conflict to rearm.

 

Last month, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told parliament that the Shiite group is three times stronger now than it was in 2006.

 


First published: 25.12.08, 19:11
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