In the absence of a Lebanese army presence in southern Lebanon, Syrian troops have been approaching the Israeli border to observe the Israeli forces arrayed along the fence, reported Haaretz newspaper.
Israeli officials claimed that the Lebanese army's failure to stand by UN Security Council Resolution 425 and fill in the vacuum left by the Israeli withdrawal has opened the way for small Syrian intelligence teams to approach the border, said the paper.
According to the paper, Hizbollah has maintained a massive presence along the border and is the dominant military power in the area.
Hizbollah has not stationed cannons or heavy weaponry in the area, but military sources believe the organization maintains its ability to carry out attacks against Israel, said Haaretz.
"The group has set up roadblocks, ambushes and lookouts along the border with Israel, and maintains the routines of a formal army. The organization has permanent lookouts into Israel, and is most visible at former border crossings, including Turmous, Biranit, and the Fatma Gate.
Hizbollah has also recently expanded its civilian activities in Lebanon. A senior Israeli source said the organization is still "clipping coupons" following the Israeli withdrawal, preparing for the Lebanese elections scheduled for August and September, said the paper.
Hizbollah has paved roads in the south, rebuilt mosques and erected memorials to its martyrs. The group has also opened local offices in southern towns and collected funds for its operations from civilians in the south, said the paper.
But there are still occasional violent outbursts at Fatma Gate, which sometimes involve hundreds of stone-throwers.
Israeli officials hope UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, will cooperate with the Lebanese government to impose order in the area.
Still, the source said, "the current situation cannot continue indefinitely, and if these attacks continue, we will eventually be forced to respond aggressively," said the paper - Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)