Israel says Hamas working with Hezbollah to train ‘thousands’ in Lebanon

‘Israel will not stand by idly,’ says envoy to UN, after Lebanese daily reports terror groups setting up training camps, missile factories

In this May 22, 2010 photo, a Hezbollah fighter stands behind an empty rocket launcher while explaining  various tactics and weapons used against Israeli soldiers on the battlefield. (AP/Hussein Malla)
In this May 22, 2010 photo, a Hezbollah fighter stands behind an empty rocket launcher while explaining various tactics and weapons used against Israeli soldiers on the battlefield. (AP/Hussein Malla)

Israel has appealed to the United Nations to intervene in southern Lebanon, saying that the Palestinian terror group Hamas is working with Hezbollah to establish missile factories and camps to train thousands of fighters there.

The issue was first reported Saturday by a Lebanese daily, quoting UN sources. It was later confirmed by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, which said the issue has been regularly raised at the UN.

According to the Al Joumhouria report, Israel sent a letter in recent weeks to the UN Security Council and General Assembly containing intelligence on the terror groups’ efforts to set up missile factories in Lebanon for Hamas, as well as training facilities overseen by senior Hezbollah members for “thousands of Palestinian fighters.”

In the letter, Israel charged that the cooperation between the Iran-backed organizations was a “blatant violation” of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War between the Israeli military and Hezbollah and mandated the disarmament of armed groups in Lebanon, such as Hezbollah.

Israel requested the UN intervene to stop the cooperation between Hamas and Hezbollah, according to the report.

Hamas supporters in Gaza hold Hezbollah and Islamic flags as they demonstrate against Israel during the Second Lebanon War on July 30, 2006. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

“The issue is on Israel’s agenda at the UN and is regularly raised in meetings, official letters and speeches, both to the UN Secretary-General and UN Security Council,” the Foreign Ministry said in response to the report.

“The cooperation between Hamas and Hezbollah crosses borders. We are witnessing the results of the Hamas terror government in Gaza, and now Hamas is tightening its ties with Hezbollah with the blessing and support of Iran, which is working to entrench its own forces also on Lebanese soil,” Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said in a statement following the report.

Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon speaks to members of the UN security council during an emergency session on Israel-Gaza Conflict at the United Nations headquarters on May 30, 2018 in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images/AFP)

“I have recently appealed to the Security Council and warned of this cooperation between the terror organizations. I emphasized that Israel will not stand by idly in the face of new and old threats that face it,” Danon said. “Israel will do everything to safeguard its citizens.”

Israel’s complaints to the UN on the cooperation in Lebanon between Hamas and Hezbollah — both of which are supported by Iran — came as Israel also has raised concern over Iranian military entrenchment elsewhere on its northern border in Syria.

Israel has repeatedly vowed it will not tolerate Iran’s military presence in Syria and has carried out airstrikes on Iranian targets in the country, including last month in response to Iran’s firing of rockets from Syria at the Golan Heights.

Israel fears that as the Syrian civil war winds down, Iran, whose forces and Shiite proxies have backed President Bashar Assad, will entrench militarily in the neighboring country and turn its focus on Israel.

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that in a ploy to try to reduce pressure from Israel, Iranian-backed forces, including Hezbollah, have withdrawn their forces from areas in southern Syria, only to later return posing as Syrian military units.

In an apparent bid to avoid further Israeli strikes, Lebanese Hezbollah troops and other Iranian-backed militias withdrew from the Daraa and Quneitra provinces in Syria’s southwest near Israel, but later returned dressed in Syrian military uniforms and under the regime flag, the report said, citing multiple rebel commanders.

Asked about the report, an Israeli official declined to specifically address the allegations of uniform switching, but told the Journal: “You can be sure that Israel is very much aware of basically everything happening in our backyard.”

The report said the disguise attempt was a sign of how dependent the Assad regime was on Iranian-backed forces, which include Lebanese, Iranians, Iraqis and Afghans. The rebels said the foreigners were given identity cards of Syrian soldiers killed in the seven-year civil war.

Illustrative image of a tank flying the Hezbollah terror group’s flag seen in the Qara area in Syria’s Qalamoun region on August 28, 2017 (AFP Photo/Louai Beshara)

Having taken control over the Damascus region in recent weeks, the regime is said to be planning an assault on rebel-held areas in the south.

During his visit to Europe this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly won a commitment to support ousting Iranian forces from Syria.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday told Netanyahu that she agrees with Israel’s demand that Iranian troops be removed from Syria, especially the area close to the Israeli border.

“Iran’s regional influence is worrying,” she said, adding that her government would use “diplomatic” means to counter it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a joint press conference in Berlin, Germany, on June 4, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Last week, it was reported that Israel and Russia had reached a deal to remove Iranian forces from southern Syria, while also giving Israel a green light to strike Iranian targets in Syria.

The reported agreement would see Iranian forces leave southwestern Syria, while allowing Israel to strike Iranian assets deep in the country. Israel agreed not to attack Syrian regime targets, a report in the Arabic Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper said.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN appeared to confirm the deal last week, saying “At this point, I cannot answer if it is being realized, but as far as I understand, the parties that were involved in reaching an agreement are satisfied with what they have achieved.”

However, Israeli officials have denied that a deal has been done making it clear that Jerusalem wants Iranian forces — including Hezbollah and other Shiite militias — entirely out of Syria, and not just the southwestern region closest to the Jewish state.

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