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Israel troubled that war in Lebanon drove its enemies closer

Lebanese and Palestinian militants are now showing greater coordination.

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Over the next few days, Israel hopes to bring home its remaining troops from south Lebanon, marking the end of its withdrawal after the 34-day war with Hizbullah guerrillas.

In Beirut, Hizbullah plans to mark the occasion Friday with a celebration in which supporters will claim "victory" despite the massive devastation in Lebanon.

But even though a calm continues to hold, Israelis say the war that started July 12 with the capture of two of its soldiers has created a much more dangerous enemy as the conflict has deepened ties between Lebanese guerrillas and Palestinian militants each with ties to Syria and Iran.

The result, Israeli analysts and military officials say, may be the further entrenchment of Hizbullah within the Palestinian territories and among militants connected to the ruling Hamas party. That could lead to future coordinated attacks on Israel more sophisticated in nature than the Palestinians have so far demonstrated.

The war will further cement ties that have been developing for more than a decade as Palestinian militants are eager to learn the techniques that allowed Hizbullah to withstand superior Israeli firepower while inflicting damage on Israel, say analysts and Israeli intelligence officers.

"The connection is all the global jihad," says an Israeli political official who works closely with Israel's intelligence branch and therefore could not be named. "It doesn't matter if we call them bin Laden or [Hamas leader Khalid] Mashaal or [Hizbullah leader Hassan] Nasrallah. They are all working toward the same ends."

The extent of the connection between the Iranian and Syrian-supported Hizbullah and Hamas, as well as between Hizbullah and Fatah-linked militias and the radical group Islamic Jihad, has been revealed through interrogations of Palestinians over the years, documents seized in raids on Palestinian offices, and other intelligence that Israeli sources refused to discuss specifically.


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