Hezbollah stages a massive show of force, as tensions mount with Israel A massive military display by Hezbollah on Sunday was the largest in at least a decade for the Iranian-backed militia, and comes at a moment of heightened tension with Israel.

As tensions mount with Israel, Hezbollah stages a massive show of force in Lebanon

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The Lebanese political party and militant group Hezbollah has put on its biggest public show of military force in at least a decade at a base in south Lebanon close to the border with Israel. NPR's Ruth Sherlock was among the journalists invited to see the exercises. And a warning, there's lots of gunfire.


RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Usually, Hezbollah gives journalists very little access to its military positions, fighters or weaponry. So imagine our surprise when we and the rest of Lebanon's press corps were invited to a Hezbollah camp in a sensitive position near the border. We were even more surprised by what came next.


SHERLOCK: Serenaded by a brass band, we were escorted to a viewing platform by a parade ground.


SHERLOCK: And then, for a deafening hour and a half, Hezbollah fighters unloaded their weapons around us in simulated attacks on fake Israeli positions.

This is live ammunition being used, artillery.

Sniper fire hit targets well over a hundred meters away.


SHERLOCK: Musclebound fighters showed off their hand-to-hand combat skills and karate chopped stacks of terracotta tiles with bare hands. Fighters leapt through a ring of flames.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

SHERLOCK: Rockets smashed into a nearby hillside, where the group had laid out Israeli flags to represent a settlement. They also fired weapons from drones.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

SHERLOCK: So why do this now? It is a sensitive time with Israel. Last month after Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, more rockets were fired into Israel from Lebanon than at any time since the end of the 2006 war. But Nick Blanford, a Hezbollah expert affiliated with the Atlantic Council, says this may actually be more a message to Hezbollah's Iranian financiers and to Lebanese.

NICK BLANFORD: A kind of signaling to the support base that we're still here, we're still strong.

SHERLOCK: For all the theatrics, the messaging by Hezbollah officials at the event was clear. This was about deterrence and not a call for war with Israel.

Ruth Sherlock, NPR News, southern Lebanon.


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