Could Iran be plotting a Hizbollah offensive to take the heat off its leaders?

World Focus: Lebanon

The house stands pulverised in the little valley behind Khirbet Silm, an unfinished two-storey villa that is now a grey mass of concrete rubble and dust, watched over by three sweating Lebanese soldiers.

The fires that raged here spread across a kilometre of hillside. But the explosions that started them have reverberated far further – to closed sessions of the UN Security Council, to the Israeli and Lebanese governments, to the Hizbollah, even to Iran.

Khirbet Silm, a Shia hill village sandwiched between tobacco fields and orange orchards has never been so famous – or infamous. Who would imagine that this heap of wreckage was a Hizbollah arms cache (illegally hidden inside the UN peacekeeping zone), a heap of shells and elderly rockets and small arms ammunition that spectacularly blew up this month? There were, according to the UN, 40 explosions in all that rippled across the valley, producing from an exceedingly uncomfortable Hizbollah a volley of highly unconvincing explanations.

Just old Israeli ammunition, it suggested, left behind from the Israeli-Hizbollah war of 2006? Hmm. Or, the Israelis left the ammunition there when they retreated in 2006. That's very definitely a "ho hum". Israel's hopelessly small 3,000-strong invasion force never reached within six miles of Khirbet Silm at that time. Which is why delegates to the UN in New York have been saying that the whole shebang was a clear breach of Resolution 1701, which clearly stipulates that no armed group may store ammunition between the Litani River and the "Blue Line" that effectively marks the Lebanese-Israeli border.

Four days after the explosions, on 18 July, UN peacekeeping troops and their Lebanese army colleagues gingerly moved in to inspect the site, at which point, "local villagers" started chucking stones at the French, Belgian and Italian blue hats, lightly wounding 14 of them.

According to the UN, some of these "villagers" were recognised as Hizbollah members, a view that was strengthened when groups of men were observed by the wreckage, heaping still-unexploded ammunition into wooden boxes for transportation out of the village. The shells and rockets they did leave behind turned out to date from the 1990s, but by then the whole affair had gone global.

The Israelis, still threatening to obliterate Iran's nuclear facilities, suspect that if they stage air strikes against the Islamic Republic, Hizbollah would open another war against northern Israel. Hence the outrage over this weapons cache. If you wish to strike at Iran, it seems, you must be able to do so with impunity; no second front from Lebanon.

In fact, the Iranians have long ago promised to exact a fearful toll on US troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the waters of the Gulf – let alone a nifty little strike on Israel's own nuclear base in the Negev desert – if Mr Netanyahu and his far-right Israeli government decide to attack. This is why Barack Obama has been flying out his top brass to Israel over the past few months. Netanyahu's threats are Washington's nightmare.

Worse still, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's friends in Iran have been talking about the events in southern Lebanon. Is a new Hizbollah offensive being planned to take the heat off the crackpot President of Iran? And the Lebanese suspect that there's a far more dramatic dilemma forming between Obama and Netanyahu: that Netanyahu is threatening to let fly at Iran if Obama really forces him to end all Jewish colonisation in the West Bank.

The Lebanese live by conspiracies, but even the mayor of Khirbet Silm, Issam Majed, 47, an engineer, has an eloquent line by way of explanation. Sitting in the neatest, cleanest municipality building in all of southern Lebanon, this bespectacled bureaucrat declares: "When the Israelis fire at us with artillery or from the sea, the UN soldiers count the violations and that's it ... Then an explosion happens and it goes all the way to closed meetings of the UN Security Council in New York."

So why were those villagers suddenly throwing stones at the UN troops? "The UN arrived with tanks and armoured vehicles ... They flew helicopters all the time low over the village and frightened the women and children and the old people. Then they started to demand to enter people's homes. Foreign troops should not do this. Even the Lebanese army have to apply to the courts to do this."

Now this was a bit much. After 40 spectacular explosions inside its zone, the UN was highly unlikely to up sticks to the local judiciary in Tyre to ask for permission to hunt for armed men. And down at their base at Naqqoura, UN officials have all the right documentation for cynical reporters. According to its mandate, the UN soldiers "cannot search private houses unless there is credible evidence of a violation of Resolution 1701, including an imminent threat of hostile activity emanating from that specific location". So there you have it. The Israeli air force daily over-flies southern Lebanon – breaching, of course, Resolution 1701 and, presumably, looking for the arms hide-outs that no one finds – but the moment a house blows up at Khirbet Silm, you are going to have a Leopard tank at your front door.

Needless to say, poor old Major-General Claudio Graziani, the Italian UN commander, has got caught up in some familiar Lebanese spiders' webs. All he wants to do is help the innocent people of southern Lebanon, he opines. And – quite rightly – he holds a public meeting with local politicians, one of whom is the well-known elected Hizbollah MP, Hassan Fadlallah. The Israelis roar again: "Why is the UN negotiating with terrorists?" And so it continues.

Suggested Topics
News
In this photo illustration, the Twitter logo and hashtag '#Ring!' is displayed on a mobile device as the company announced its initial public offering and debut on the New York Stock Exchange on November 7, 2013 in London, England. Twitter went public on the NYSE opening at USD 26 per share, valuing the company's worth at an estimated USD 18 billion.
news

Arts and Entertainment
'Africa' will be Angelina Jolie's fifth film as a director
film

Mr and Mrs Smith star admits she's 'never been comfortable on-screen'

Arts and Entertainment
Australia singer Iggy Azalea has been attacked by Eminem in a new rap
music

Singer was ordered not to 'blow her rape whistle' in song 'Vegas'

News
Myleene Klass
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
News
Ashton Kutcher speaking at Human Rights Watch's Voices For Justice dinner in November 2013
people'What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist?'
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch as John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock
tv

Co-creator Mark Gatiss dropped some very intriguing hints ahead of the BBC drama's return next year

Life and Style
Jane Merrick rides on a Micro Scooter through St James's Park, on November 18, 2014 in London, United Kingdom.
life
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was driven to a miserable death. His story is to be told in film
Sport
Qatar has very little football history

It is a crazy place to play in summer, writes Paul Scholes

Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
News
Actor Dave Prowse in his role as the Green Cross Code Man in 1982
peopleStar Wars actor to reprise his other role - as the Green Cross Man
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Brit Marling as PR woman Liz Garvey
tv

It was all about Liz’s cocaine-fuelled brainwave, 'The Metwork'

Voices
The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad and Russia’s deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov flank Fifa president Sepp Blatter
voices
Life and Style
tech
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Content / Copy Writer

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has bec...

Recruitment Genius: IT Desktop Deployment Engineer

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A prestigious IT & Telecoms Sales and Su...

Argyll Scott International: Senior Perl Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Argyll Scott International: Senior Perl...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultants - GERMAN SPEAKING

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines