Hezbollah has been building new bases and facilities in southern Lebanon and in the eastern Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border, the Lebanese Daily Star reported Tuesday, basing the report on recently uploaded Google Earth satellite images.
According to imagery analysts and European intelligence officials quoted by the Daily Star, the images show what appears to be a Hezbollah training base in an area of secluded hills near the border with Syria. The base includes what is suspected to be a driving course, a 100-meter firing range and a possible urban terrain assault course. The experts also indicated that the training base began construction in 2006, the year Hezbollah engaged in a war with Israel.
The images also showed a great deal of overt construction activity in Hezbollah-dominated areas in southern Lebanon, particularly in hills south of the town of Jezzine, which served as the terrorist organization's main line of defense after the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the report said.
Hezbollah's construction activity suggests the organization has made efforts to prepare for another possible confrontation with Israel. However, the construction's unobstructed visibility to Israeli aerial reconnaissance and Western satellite surveillance calls into question the purpose of the facilities, The Daily Star said.
The images of Hezbollah's activity in the Bekaa Valley date May 21, 2011, and show considerable progress in construction, including new tracks and buildings, compared to a previous image from November 2005.
The new construction may be for civilian use, but four features of the new construction raise suspicion, the paper reported. The driving course, consisting of a track with a series of hairpin turns, and unidentified object consisting of three graded strips in the shape of an arrow, two parallel rows of three small roofless buildings with a large structure at the southern end, and the firing range some 400 meters southwest of the other three facilities.
The Google Earth images show what looks like a white SUV parked at the entrance of the site.
If the site is being used for military purposes, it suggests Hezbollah is not making an effort to conceal its facilities, which may indicate that the site is being used only for specialized, not regular, training, the Daily Star said.
In the Jezzine area in southern Lebanon, several new buildings and roads have been spotted in areas that were sealed off by Hezbollah after the last war with Israel. According to The Daily Star, these security pockets are not secret.
"It is possible that the construction is genuinely of a civilian nature and is providing the foundation for future agricultural or industrial projects. But there is another alternative. Hezbollah’s military leaders are masters of deception, which raises the possibility that the construction activity is nothing more than a decoy to keep everyone guessing while the militarily significant work is conducted under camouflage and in secrecy elsewhere," the report said.