Hezbollah Turning Lebanese into 'Human Shield'

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel Air Force chief Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel says Hezbollah has further expanded its military installations in Lebanese residential areas, now estimated in the thousands.

"Above and below [the installations] live civilians whom we have nothing against -- a kind of human shield," Eshel explained at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies near Tel Aviv, Reuters reported. "We will have to deal aggressively with thousands of Hezbollah bases that threaten the State of Israel -- and mainly our interior."

It's the same strategy used by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Islamist group's strategic placement of weapons warehouses and explosives labs in residential buildings, and rocket launch pads in residential neighborhoods, effectively turns the civilian population into human shields during retaliatory airstrikes.

Meanwhile, Israeli military intelligence estimates Hezbollah's rocket and missile cache at more than 100,000, including more sophisticated rocketry, such as advanced anti-tank missiles and other lethal projectiles.

The IDF has been carefully monitoring Hezbollah's steady infiltration of Lebanese residential areas since the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. The U.N.-brokered cease-fire, which was supposed to deter the Lebanese-based Iranian proxy from digging in south of the Litani River, didn't stop them.

Eshel said the IDF will do whatever is necessary to protect the Jewish state in any future confrontations.

"Our ability today to attack targets on a large scale and with high precision is about 15 times greater than what we did in the [2006] war," he said, adding that the aim would be to hit hard and fast "because the more protracted the war, the more missiles we'll be hit with here."

Eshel accredited the IDF's success in intercepting weapons convoys to Hezbollah from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"I think the State of Israel has extraordinary deterrence that should not be discredited," he said, "significant deterrence bought in blood."

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Reuters contributed to this report.

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