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Iran, Syria beef up support to Islamic Hezbollah fighters

JERUSALEM, Dec. 9 (JTA) — A senior Israel Defense Force officer was quoted this week as saying that Syria is increasing its cooperation with Iran in providing military assistance to the Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah movement in Lebanon. Citing an unnamed IDF intelligence source, the Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported this week that an “unprecedented” supply of arms has been flown from Iran into the Damascus airport. From there, trucks transport the weapons to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon. Hezbollah has “control of over 90 percent of South Lebanon, including villages which were not previously run” by the Iranian- backed Shi’ite movement, the source was quoted as saying. The arms shipments from Iran have enabled Hezbollah to “entirely rehabilitate itself” to the level of arms it possessed before the 16 days of cross-border fighting with Israel that erupted in April, the source said. Hezbollah had recruited hundreds of villagers in southern Lebanon to provide the organization with intelligence information, the source added. Officials in the IDF northern command have warned in recent months that Hezbollah’s intelligence gathering capabilities had improved considerably and that the organization plans to escalate its attacks on Israeli soldiers operating in southern Lebanon.