Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said Thursday that Hizbullah’s growing weapons supplies are “an internal matter”. Salloukh’s statement was seen as a response to accusations that Lebanon has failed to implement a United Nations resolution that would prohibit Hizbullah from rearming.
Salloukh spoke to Associated Press reporters following a meeting with British diplomat Ivan Lewis. During the meeting Lewis mentioned Britain’s concern over Hizbullah’s arms smuggling.
Hizbullah is forbidden to rearm according to UN Security Council resolution 1701, the decision which ended the Second Lebanon War. The resolution called on Israel to fully withdraw from southern Lebanon and cease its counterterror offensive in the region, in exchange for a guarantee that the Lebanese government would take full control of southern Lebanon, and would not allow Hizbullah to rearm or to take up positions south of the Litani River.
Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah has openly boasted that his terrorist network has rebuilt its weapons stock, and now has even more rockets than it did before attacking Israel in 2006.
Meanwhile, in Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that if Hizbullah attacks Israel again, Lebanon may pay the price. While Israel made efforts not to harm Lebanese infrastructure during the Second Lebanon War, in a future conflict such infrastructure may be targeted, he told Israel Radio.
According to Barak, former Defense Minister Amir Peretz agreed with senior IDF officials not to target Lebanese infrastructure such as roads and airports during the conflict, due to agreements between Israel and the United States. Peretz later denied that such an agreement existed.
One reason for Israel’s potential change in policy is Hizbullah’s growing strength on the Lebanese political scene. While in 2006 Hizbullah was an opposition group with little say in state policy, the pro-Syrian bloc led by Hizbullah has since gained power, and has been granted veto power over major government decisions.