Israel-Italy ties are strong, IDF chief says


ROME (JTA) — Israeli Defense Forces chief Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi praised military relations between Italy and Israel.

Ashkenazi concluded a two-day official visit to Italy on Tuesday.

In an interview with Radio Jerusalem before his departure from Rome, Ashkenazi noted that Italy deployed the main force of UNIFIL, the United Nations mission in southern Lebanon.

"With Italy," Ashkenazi said, "we have excellent relations on land, sea and in the air."

Ashkenazi added, however, that Hezbollah was reinforcing its presence in areas of southern Lebanon outside of UNIFIL control.

During his visit to Rome, Ashkenazi warned that Hezbollah was building "an underground infrastructure of command centers and rocket launchers, mostly within the Shiite villages in southern Lebanon, as well as other parts of Lebanon," according to a statement from Israel’s military.

He added that "throughout Lebanon, including in southern Lebanon, residential villages were turned into ‘surface-to-surface rocket villages,’ while Hezbollah is taking advantage of the local population and [also taking advantage of] the lack of UNIFIL’s mandated authority, to strengthen its command centers and rocket launchers inside the villages."

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