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Last update – 16:33 07/02/2007

Peretz: Israel has right to use force against Hezbollah rearmament

By Haaretz Service and Agencies

Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Wednesday accused Syria of allowing the rearmament of Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and said Israel has the right to act forcefully against the Shiite militia to counter the threat.

Speaking to visiting U.S. Jewish leaders, Peretz said Syria, Hezbollah’s main ally, is continuing to allow weapons shipments to the group to cross its border with Lebanon.”We can’t under any circumstances ignore the transfer of weapons and ammunition to Hezbollah,” Peretz said.
“While Israel remains committed to the cease-fire we reserve the right to protect the citizens of the State of Israel and we will do this forcefully without any compromises.”

In Beirut, a Hezbollah official declined comment.Peretz’s comments come just days after Israel Defense Forces troops discovered five explosive devices Monday along the Israel-Lebanon border, which the army believes were placed by Hezbollah recently.Hezbollah said on Tuesday that the devices had been there since before the outbreak of the second Lebanon war on July 12.

Troops from the Engineering Corps found the devices while patrolling some 60 meters north of the border fence, inside Israeli sovereign territory, near Moshav Avivim.

The army said the explosives were hidden in containers that looked like boulders, and were designed to target IDF patrols on the border.Israel has filed a formal complaint with the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon, whose troops are stationed along the border.

A UNIFIL spokesman said on Tuesday it had concluded an initial investigation. “And … we were not in a position to determine whether the devices were planted before or after [the] August 14 [cease-fire].”About two weeks ago, IDF troops destroyed two Hezbollah bunkers uncovered during searches of the area around the border fence. One of the bunkers was found during the war, and the other was uncovered last month. Both bunkers were within Israel’s territory, somewhere between the international border and the border fence. The bunkers housed supplies, food and tools that would enable a long stay underground.

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