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Israel — Lebanon blast shows ’flagrant’ violations

By Matti Friedman

Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Israel charged Iran and Syria Thursday with continuing to send weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah in violation of U.N. resolutions after one of the militant group’s weapons warehouses blew up in south Lebanon.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the incident was evidence of "Iranian and Syrian efforts to continue to transfer weapons to Hezbollah in direct and flagrant violation" of the U.N. cease-fire that ended the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006.

The Lebanese Shiite group, which is both a popular political movement and a powerful guerrilla organization, is backed by both Syria and Iran.

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The conditions of the 2006 cease-fire prohibit weapons smuggling to Hezbollah and forbid the group from engaging in military activities in south Lebanon. Lebanese officials say explosions Tuesday in a supposedly abandoned building 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of the Israeli border were caused by a fire in a Hezbollah weapons storage facility.

A senior Israeli officer told reporters the warehouse contained short-range rockets that were smuggled from Syria. The warehouse was one of dozens of similar Hezbollah arms depots across south Lebanon and part of a "buildup" of the group’s strength there, the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with military regulations.

The U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon Wednesday called the incident a "serious violation" of the cease-fire.

Israel has long charged that the group is rearming and preparing for another round of fighting despite the presence of the U.N. peacekeepers. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday it is weighing an official complaint to the U.N.

Hezbollah won support at home and in the Arab world for its perceived stand against Israel in the 2006 war, which it sparked with a cross-border attack on an Israeli patrol.

The group has not commented on the explosion.

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