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A future war with Lebanon’s Hezbollah could see the Shiite militant group cross the border in strength and seize Israeli territory, a senior officer said in comments widely reported by Israeli media on Monday.

The Jerusalem Post quoted the unidentified officer as saying that Hezbollah had learnt much about ground tactics from Syria, where it has fought alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the three-and-a-half-year-old civil war.

“Hezbollah’s confidence is growing, along with its combat experience in Syria,” it quoted the officer as saying.

“The battlegrounds of Syria have enabled Hezbollah to upgrade its capabilities. Hezbollah plans to send many combatants into Israeli territory near the border and seize it.”

Israel and Hezbollah fought a devastating war in 2006, which killed more than 1 200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and some 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Since then the border has remained largely quiet, but in February Israeli warplanes attacked targets inside Lebanon for the first reported time since the 2006 conflict and Hezbollah vowed revenge.

Monday’s reports, based on a briefing to Israeli defence correspondents, said that although another confrontation did not appear imminent, it was inevitable sooner or later.

Army spokesperson Major Arye Shalicar told AFP that the military was prepared for any threat from Hezbollah.

“We are ready for any challenge. We are observing… what’s going on,” he said. “We are ready and it’s not worth it for them, it’s not worth them even trying it.”

Shalicar said that since 2006 the Shiite movement had re-established itself in the frontier region.

“In more than 200 villages in south Lebanon, they’ve built up a lot of strength, with all kinds of weapons, all kinds of missiles of varying range,” he said.

“All of their money is flowing in various directions to an offensive capability which, among other things, includes about 100 000 rockets of various types, most of them from Iran and Syria.

“You don’t get yourself 100 000 rockets for nothing. It would seem there’s a reason behind it and it’s certainly not for the good of the people.”

iAfrica/ AFP

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