The Iranian-backed group Hizbullah has increased its co-operation with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), a senior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer told journalists during a visit to the border on 5 September.
The officer said the co-operation was part of Hizbullah’s attempts to cover up activities that violate UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which bans non-state armed personnel from operating south of the Litani river, a zone where the Shia militant group is building up its military capabilities.
“What we see here is very close co-operation between Hizbullah and the LAF,” the officer said. “We actually see them working together. We see them go to the same villages together. We know who is who. Sometimes the Hizbullah personnel wear LAF uniforms.”
In the event of any future escalation, the IDF’s approach to the LAF would “mostly depend on how the LAF behaves,” he said. “If we see the LAF move back and give us space, we will not attack them. If they take part in hostilities, we will have to attack.”
The United States has invested more than USD1.5 billion in the LAF over the past decade, a process that has included the transfer of Super Tucano light attack aircraft and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.
The senior Israeli officer praised the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which monitors the border zone, for what he said was an improved effort to stabilise the area. UNIFIL also hosts regular meetings between the IDF and LAF where they co-ordinate activities and work to prevent misunderstandings that could lead to an escalation.
However, the officer noted that the peacekeepers cannot enter villages to inspect suspicious activities without the LAF, which in turn always gets permission from Hizbullah before any such visits.
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