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Continued: Israeli warplanes strike Palestinian group's base south of Beirut

  • Article by: BASSEM MROUE , Associated Press
  • Last update: August 23, 2013 - 12:50 AM

Israel believes Hezbollah has recovered from the 2006 fighting and restocked its arsenal with tens of thousands of rockets and missiles. Officials believe Hezbollah is still wary of engaging in hostilities while it is involved in the civil war in Syria.

The Israel-Lebanon border has remained quiet since the monthlong 2006 war, although there have been sporadic incidents of rocket fire. Earlier this month, four Israeli soldiers were also wounded in a mysterious incident along the border.

The civil war in Syria has done more to elevate tensions, especially as Hezbollah has become increasingly involved in the fighting there.

Israel fears that Syria will transfer sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah and has carried out several airstrikes in Syria in recent months on suspected Iranian weapons shipments believed to be bound for the militant group. Israel has never officially confirmed the airstrikes.

In his statement, Netanyahu made his first comments about Syrian opposition claims that the Syrian army fired chemical weapons this week, killing more than 100 people. He called the reported use of chemical weapons against civilians "terribly disturbing."

"If verified, it will be a horrible addition to the roster of tragic crimes committed by the Syrian regime against the people of Syria," he said.

Netanyahu called it "absurd" that U.N. investigators inside Syria to investigate chemical weapons have been prevented from reaching the areas where the weapons were believed to have been used.

He also accused Iran, the key backer of Syria and Hezbollah, of using a Syria as a "testing ground." Israel accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and believes the international community has not been tough enough in stopping Iran's suspect nuclear program.

"Iran is closely watching whether and how the world responds to the atrocities committed by Iran's client state Syria and by Iran's proxy Hezbollah against innocent civilians in Syria," he said. "These events prove yet again that we simply cannot allow the world's most dangerous regimes to acquire the world's most dangerous weapons."

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