Israel military official says Hezbollah stockpiling weapons in villages in neighboring Lebanon



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TEL AVIV, Israel — The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has built up a massive arsenal of rockets and other advanced weapons in Shiite villages of southern Lebanon, a senior Israeli intelligence official said Wednesday, warning civilians would be at risk if war breaks out.

According to the official, Hezbollah has an estimated 100,000 short-range rockets capable of striking northern Israel, several thousand missiles that can reach Tel Aviv and central Israel and hundreds more that can strike the entire country.

Most of the weapons have been transferred to Lebanon through war-torn Syria, coming from Hezbollah's key allies, the Syrian government and Iran, he said.

The official showed reporters satellite photos of what Israeli intelligence believes are Hezbollah positions in dozens of Shiite villages in southern Lebanon.

The photos were marked with dozens of red icons, signaling what are believed to be missile launchers, arms depots, underground tunnels and command posts.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under military guidelines, said an estimated 200 villages have been turned into "military strongholds."

One photo showed the village of Muhaybib, with a population of around 1,000 people and 90 buildings, of which more than a third had been marked as Hezbollah assets. In the larger village of Shaqra, with some 4,000 people, Israeli intelligence identified Hezbollah targets in around 400 out of some 1,200 buildings.

The army refused to allow publication of the images.

If war breaks out and Hezbollah fires missiles at Israel, these buildings will be targeted by Israel's air force, the official said, adding that Israel would give civilians time to evacuate.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in 2006 that killed some 1,200 Lebanese, including hundreds of civilians, and 160 Israelis and caused heavy damage to Lebanon's infrastructure.

Though another Israel-Hezbollah war is always possible, analysts say the Shiite militant group has no interest in renewing hostilities while it is busy fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces against rebels trying to topple him in Syria.

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