Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Nearly Half Hezbollah Fighters Killed Or Wounded

Israel's five-week assault on Hezbollah left nearly half the Shiite militia's estimated fighting force of 2,500 men dead or wounded, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said. "We estimate Hezbollah lost something like 600 fighters (and) one can imagine 600 others wounded, amounting to 1,000 to 1,200 out of a force of 2,500," he said. There was no way of independently verifying Peres's assertion. Speaking after meeting here with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Peres described the Lebanon-based militia as "a foreign legion" trained and armed by Iran. "This is in fact today an Iranian armed division -- by training, by weapons, by command, by finance," Peres said. He estimated that Iran had been spending more than 100 million dollars per year to arm and train the militia, which sparked the latest Middle East conflict by capturing two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12."They're a paid Iranian force, no matter what the name," he said, asserting that Iranian instructors were working with the militia in Lebanon and that some Hezbollah combatants had received training in Iran. Israel, backed by the United States, says much of Hezbollah's weaponry has come from Iran via Syria. A UN Security Council resolution adopted Friday to end the fighting called for a total embargo on any shipments of weapons or support to armed groups inside Lebanon other than the Lebanese army. The resolution, which succeeded in putting a fragile halt to the fighting as of Monday morning, foresees the creation of a 15,000-strong UN military force to help the Lebanese army prevent arms shipments to Hezbollah. It also demanded that Israel halt all "offensive" military operations in Lebanon and that Hezbollah cease all attacks on Israel. Asked if the language of the resolution gave Israel the freedom to attack any convoys carrying weapons to Hezbollah in defiance of the United Nations, Peres said: "As long as we're not attacked, we don't attack."