Hezbollah militants regroup amid war jitters
The Lebanese Shiite group is recruiting Sunnis, training in Iran for a possible second war with Israel.
Kfar Shuba, Lebanon
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Over the past few weeks, military activity on both sides of the border has contributed to war jitters as both Israel and Hezbollah are seemingly poised to strike.
The Israeli military just wrapped up a nationwide war drill it dubbed "Turning Point 2," and Hizbullah appears to have devised new battle plans that include cross-border raids into Israel and has mounted a sweeping recruitment and training drive, even marshaling non-Shiites and former Israeli-allied militiamen into new reservist units.
"The holy fighters are completely focused on the next war, even ignoring families and friends. They are just waiting for the next war," says Jawad, a Hezbollah fighter.
Still, many diplomats and analysts in Beirut say that neither side has an interest in coming to blows again, despite the buildup.
"The elements of conflict are still there, and it is possible that something small can get out of hand with neither side wanting it," says Timur Goksel, a university lecturer in Beirut and veteran observer of the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict. But, he adds, the heightened activity is "mainly posturing."
Hezbollah continues to recruit and train new combatants at a furious pace. Indeed, it has noticeably increased in the past two months, ever since the assassination in Damascus of Imad Mughnieh, Hezbollah's top military commander, sparked fears of a fresh war.
Many recruits are sent to Iran for 45-day advanced training sessions, according to Hezbollah fighters. Jawad says he recently returned from Iran, his second trip in a year, where he was taught how to fire antitank missiles.
"There's a lot of training," he says. "The holy fighters are leaving universities, shops, places of work to go and train."
New tactics are being taught, including how to "seize and hold" positions, a requirement that Hezbollah's guerrilla fighters – traditionally schooled in hit-and-run methods – never needed before. One local commander in south Lebanon said that Hezbollah had fought a defensive war in 2006.
"Next time, we will be on the offensive and it will be a totally different kind of war," he says.
Jawad says that the next war will be "fought more in Israel than in Lebanon," one comment of many from various fighters that suggest Hezbollah is planning commando raids into northern Israel.
Hezbollah admits that its rocket arsenal has increased since 2006 and it has the ability to strike anywhere inside Israel.