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LEBANON: Hezbollah rearmed and reconfigured for the next Israel war

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The Los Angeles Times’ Sebastian Rotella today explores the Shiite militant group Hezbollah’s drive to reequip itself with rockets in preparation for a possible war with Israel. The article cites analysts and spooks in the Middle East and Europe as well as Hezbollah itself about the group’s weapons arsenal:

Hezbollah leaders have declined to discuss specific numbers. But a source close to Hezbollah agreed with the Israeli assessment of the military buildup... ‘We are ready, and we are stronger than two years ago,’ the source said. ‘In every battle there are weak and strong points. We have found solutions to all of our weak points from that experience.’

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Indeed. Hezbollah’s preparations go beyond merely rearming itself. It has also revamped its organizational structure and possibly bolstered its intelligence-gathering capabilities, say analysts and experts.

Patrick Haenni of the International Crisis Group called the weapons buildup part of a larger transformation intended to prepare Hezbollah for more traditional-type combat and in the open spaces of the Bekaa Valley rather than the dense villages and hills ideal for guerrilla warfare in the south.

He said they have reinvigorated a plan to recruit non-Shiite fighters as they expand their fighting force. ‘They are building up their forces,’ he said. ‘This is a strategic redefinition in anticipation of a future conflict in the Bekaa. In the plains of the Bekaa, a guerrilla strategy would not work as well.’

In the 2006 war, Hezbollah used perhaps 2,000 or 3,000 hardened fighters. Now they are recruiting among Shiites who are not die-hard Hezbollah adherents as well as among non-Shiites. They are relying more and more on alliances with non-Shiites, who are being trained.

Western officials said Hezbollah has also set up a special unit to spy on Lebanese troops and thwart their efforts to confiscate the militia’s weapons caches. The unit consists of several dozen operatives and another several dozen collaborators who monitor army bases, training, plans and patrols, officials said.

Shiite villagers in southern Lebanon help the unit monitor army patrols and roadblocks, officials said.

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— Times staff writers

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