In an unusual move, the Israeli military has released detailed intelligence material on Hezbollah's military build up in South Lebanon to the media.
As the 4th anniversary of the "Second Lebanon War" approaches on July 12, Wednesday's release of the information seemed designed to prepare international opinion for any future conflict. The cost of giving away carefully gathered military intelligence may be offset by the public relations success in the propaganda war with Hezbollah.
Using the village of Al Hiyam as an example of recent Hezbollah deployment in Shiite areas close to the border with Israel, the Israel Defense Forces shared maps and diagrams purporting to show buildings in the village thought now to be weapons and missile storage centers.
An Israeli military spokesman said the latest intelligence showed the Shiite militant organization backed and supplied by Iran was increasingly moving its military resources into built-up areas in preparation for any future Israeli military attack.
"We are talking about more than 100 villages that have become military camps for Hezbollah and we see that civilians in these villages have become Hezbollah's human shields if there is war in the future," said Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitch of the Israeli army's spokesman's office.
Israel believes Hezbollah has rearmed with up to 40,000 missiles and rockets since the 34-day conflict of 2006, in direct contravention of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701. It believes the huge arsenal also includes long-range weapons capable of bringing Israel's major population centers, including Tel Aviv, within range.
To suppress missile fire in any future conflict, Israel's air and ground forces will have to attack the launch sites within the densely populated villages. This is likely to produce significant civilian casualties and a consequent backlash in international public opinion similar to that suffered during the attack on Hamas in Gaza at the end of 2008.
Wednesday's surprise release of the intelligence material is an Israeli attempt to expose Hezbollah's tactical use of civilian areas before fighting begins.