Hizballah quietly pulled its forces in S. Lebanon back from close quarters with Israeli troops on Monday, Dec. 17, and changed their operational format, DEBKAfile reports exclusively from military sources. It is too soon to determine what exactly the Lebanese group is up to as regards its next steps, except that the move came a day after the IDF uncovered a fourth cross-border tunnel. Hizballah also silenced its military communications network in South Lebanon and stopped relaying instructions to its command centers and field troops.
In addition –
- The main Hizballah commandcenter for S. Lebanon was suddenly whisked out of Maaroub near the Litani River across to prepared structures at the Mediterranean town of Tyre in a smooth and apparently well-prepared operation.
- The personnel manning Hizballah’sobservation towers facing the Israeli border abruptly abandoned their posts,leaving only a handful of watchers.
- Hizballah agents, who had hung around the border, disguised as local farmers, beggars or shepherds, to watch every movement of the IDF excavations, disappeared. They also stopped trying to whip up local Lebanese civilians for protests on the Israeli border.
- The vehicles with fluttering yellow Hizballah flags which had been driving back and forth opposite the IDF operations have also vanished.
- The hush descending on Hizballah’s communications network has extended to the cell phones used by its operatives.
One theory to account for Hizballah’s abrupt distancing of its S. Lebanese units from contact with the IDF is that it is part of a strategy for fending off a US condemnation resolution at the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Dec. 19. Another is that the IDF will soon finishing uncovering the rest of the Hizballah tunnels and, when that happens, a clash of arms may be expected. Hizballah is preparing for that moment by aligning its military at arm’s length from the IDF.