In a Lebanese village 10 miles west of the Israeli border, black-capped Hezbollah militiamen stand guard in front of a suspected weapons cache. Even though they are unarmed, their presence deters United Nations peacekeepers from approaching the house in Khirbet Silim, preventing the UN troops from fulfilling their mission, which is to stop Hezbollah from rearming.
The UN can’t just come around here and go into people’s houses,” said Rassan Salim, a municipal official in the village and a Hezbollah militia member. “Our weapons are to defend Lebanon.”
Hezbollah’s efforts to stockpile arms became obvious on July 14 when weapons hidden in a house in the village blew up, according to officials from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon. Four days later, peacekeepers looking for arms tried to raid the house the militiamen now guard, about a kilometer from the one that exploded. Villagers stoned the soldiers, injuring 14, and blocked the incursion.
Hezbollah, which has the backing of Iran and Syria, is rebuilding its force in the south, undaunted by its loss in Lebanon’s June elections, in which a pro-U.S. coalition won a parliamentary majority. The peacekeepers’ stay in south Lebanon expires on Aug. 31 and the UN Security Council must decide whether to extend it without change or authorize them to impose the weapons ban by force even without the support of the Lebanese army.
By Daniel Williams, Aug. 21 (Bloomberg)