Iranian military engineers are supervising the heavy construction work on a second line of division-strength fortifications 13 km long on the northern bank of the Litani River of South Lebanon.
While the first line, almost finished, stretches 15 km across the Shiite farming villages of Sir and Zrariyah, which are under Hizballah’s thumb, the second line to the east, where construction has just begun, extends to the most important Christian towns of South Lebanon, Marj Ayoun and Jezzine. Landowners there were not consulted before their fields were seized for the military structures.
The heavy tractors and bulldozers at the two sites were most likely brought in through the Syrian port of Latakia, Iran’s main point of entry for military wares destined for Syria and Lebanon.
Western military observers told DEBKA-Net-Weekly that anyone standing on rooftops in the northern streets of Marj Ayoun can see clearly the heavy tractors preparing the ground for the fortified bunkers and tunnels. They are visible too from Jezzine, scant yards from the estate of the Lebanese Christian lawmaker Farid Sirhal.
The most intense construction activity is focused on Jebal Toura south of Jezzine, believed to be the site of the center of the future fortified compound.
Our military sources report that each of these complexes – 1 and 2 – will consist of chains of defensive positions planned to secure this part of South Lebanon against armored infantry and tank assault. They will be controlled from underground command centers.
A line of bunkers scattered across the two sectors are designed to support 30-40 fighters each and large stores of ammunition, food and water. A series of tunnels will hold an arsenal of surface missiles of various ranges and dozens of concrete and earth platforms or ramps for missile launchers, including the heavy Zelzal 2 and Zelzal 3, which Hizballah recently received from Iran through the same Syrian port of Latakia.
Tank positions although Hizballah has no tanks
There are also tank positions.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources emphasize that, while Hizballah has plenty of missiles and rockets, the Shiite terrorist group does not have tanks or trained crews to operate them. That is one conundrum. They also wonder who exactly will man the two fortified complexes which are designed to accommodate two military divisions.
Hizballah’s total strength runs to less than one division.
The scale and shape of the facilities as shown on the attached strategic map suggest they are planned to serve regular military forces – such as the Syrian or Iranian armies – in the event of a regional war flare-up.
The way the two military sites are laid out shows DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military experts the principles of the military strategy Iran, Syria and Hizballah have charted to meet a comprehensive regional conflict.
1. They take as given an Israeli invasion of South Lebanon south of the Litani River – This Shiite region will be allowed to fall into Israeli hands, but the incoming forces will be hampered in their advance by ambushes and roadside bombs planted by local Shiite civilians.
2. Israel troops will be prevented from reaching the two fortified complexes by the blowing up the Qasamiyeh and Hardaleh bridges which span the Litani River.
3. The function of the Western fortified complex between Sir and Zrariyeh will be to secure the roads leading east to the Beqaa Valley and prevent Israeli forces from storming Hizballah strongholds at Baalbek.
The second compound between Marj Ayoun and Jezzine will secure the highways from Lebanon to Damascus and keep the Syrian capital safe from an Israeli incursion.
4. The two sites form an upside down L. They were located so that if one is attacked, the second will come to its defense or strike incoming Israeli forces from the rear. This deployment would force the IDF to attack them simultaneously – or not at all.