IDF Chief Gabi Ashkenazi
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Cabinet meeting
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Photo: AP
Lebanese army. Trying but not succeeding
Photo: AP

Ashkenazi: Hizbullah trying to move south of Litani

IDF chief of staff tells cabinet ministers Shiite group attempting to descend to open areas along northern border. 'UNIFIL and the Lebanese army are operating, but the weapon smuggling from Syria to Lebanon continues,' he says

Hizbullah is only one minister away from influencing the Lebanese government, IDF Chief of Staff Lt-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi said during Sunday's cabinet meeting.


Only one day before the publication of the interim Winograd Commission report, it appears that not much has changed in Lebanon since last summer's war.


"The organization is attempting to descend south of the Litani River, to open areas. UNIFIL and the Lebanese army are operating, but the smuggling of weapons from Syria to Lebanon continues, as there is no effective mechanism controlling the process along the very long border," Ashkenazi told the ministers.


According to the army chief, "If the Lebanese prime minister were strong enough to control the border, he would do it, but he understands the limits to his power and therefore this does not take place."


Addressing the situation on Israel's border with Syria, Ashkenazi said that there appeared to be an improvement in the Syrian army's preparedness.


"We don’t have any information on an initiated Syrian move at the moment. Their deployment is defensive," he said.


The chief of staff also referred to the situation in Gaza, saying that "since the start of the ceasefire on November 26 until April 26, five months, there were 250 incidents of 'high-trajectory' fire, both Qassams and mortar shells.


"On Independence Day, 35 mortar shells and six to seven Qassams were fired. It was indeed an unusual incident. In addition, Palestinians plant explosive devices, attempt to infiltrate Israel and fire at our forces. With 250 incidents in five months, I would not refer to this situation as a ceasefire."


He noted that it would be wrong to enter the Strip on a regular basis, as the Qassam fire continued even when the IDF was inside the Strip.


"If this situation continues, there will be no choice but to operate," Ashkenazi added.


The government ministers were briefed by the deputy Shin Bet chief, Y., who said that the rocket fire on Independence Day was directed by Hamas' top military echelon. According to him, the operation was also backed by Syria, although he did not mention who in Damascus authorized it.


The Shin Bet deputy chief added that the Palestinian Authority, along with Egypt, was attempting to expand the truce to the West Bank. "They have an interest for that to happen," he said.


Y. defined the situation in the PA as "anarchy," saying that the government was unable to impose order.

Addressing the strengthening of Hamas, he said that a large number of weapons were reaching the area, gunmen were being trained in Iran and Syria, and experts in explosives were arriving at the Gaza Strip and improving terror organizations' abilities.


Olmert, Peretz clash over Hebron house

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked the IDF and Shin Bet chiefs to tell their subordinates "to look forward and not deal with politically and publicly disputed issues."


According to the prime minister, "Even when we were in Gaza we could not avoid high-trajectory fire and smuggling. The question we should ask ourselves, even after a ground offensive in Gaza ends, is whether they are able to return to their evil ways. I would like to see the broad picture."


Olmert said that all options must be utilized to the fullest before turning to a military operation. "We are not anemic. We are doing all we need to do, including operations beyond the border," he said.


During the cabinet meeting, Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz clashed over the diputed Hebron house. Peretz said that he was not ready for "strategic decisions to be made by law violators, who take over assets and dictate the State of Israel's stance."


Olmert said in response that he was considering bringing the issue to the government for discussion. The defense minister responded that he was responsible for the issue and that the government had better not interfere in law enforcement issues.


Several ministers have expressed their reservations against Peretz's order to evacuate the settlers from the Hebron building and against the evacuation orders issued. Minister Eli Yishai, who visited the place, said that he had a feeling "it's all propaganda."


Yishai expressed his hope that the issue would be discussed in the government, adding that "this is Jewish property, which seems legal. There is no legal cause and there is no room for the evacuation even from a military point of view."


פרסום ראשון: 04.29.07, 14:01
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