Lebanon News

As Israel ramps up capabilities, so will Iran and its proxies

Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to an Israeli army base in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, November 24, 2019. Atef Safadi/Reuters

BEIRUT: Earlier this month, Israel’s defense minister criticized his country’s tactic of striking weapons convoys belonging to Iran and its proxies. Instead, he advocated for the Israeli military to focus on attacking Iranian bases in Syria.

“I don’t want to chase after convoys because for every convoy you hit, you miss five ... and slowly [Hezbollah] accumulates the critical mass of rockets that threaten us,” said Naftali Bennett on Feb. 8.

According to a senior Hezbollah official, Israel is now focused on precision-guided missiles, methods of missile enhancement and any groups backing Palestinian resistance movements.

Israeli fired missiles at alleged military sites near Damascus airport Thursday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that seven fighters from Iranian or Shiite militias were killed in the strike. Neither Iran nor its proxies confirmed or denied the deaths.

However, the Hezbollah source said that the target of a failed Israeli drone attack on a stronghold of the group in Beirut’s southern suburbs last August was neither a missile shipment, nor an individual.

Driven by Israel’s fear of Hezbollah’s arsenal, the attack was apparently intended to hit a building where Hezbollah was modifying regular missiles to give them precision-guided capabilities.

“As Sayyed [Hasan Nasrallah] has previously said, we have the missile arsenal that we need,” the source said. “Since we don’t have manufacturing facilities in Lebanon, we develop the missiles into precision-guided missiles using computer programing. This is what the Israelis were after during their drone attack.”

Israel and some mainstream media outlets have alleged that Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut is used for Iran to deliver weapons and rockets to Hezbollah. This has been vehemently denied and rejected by Lebanese officials and Hezbollah.

“A lot of times Israel hits fake convoys or targets that we send out. Sometimes we will send a truck with fuel or random products along a path knowing that it will be targeted by Israel. Lebanon is tiny and they are in the skies all the time collecting intelligence. We trick them,” the source said.

With dozens of countries involved in the Syria and Iraq wars, and Israeli intelligence at airports in both countries, the source admitted that it is becoming more difficult to obtain and transport larger, more sophisticated weapons.

As for suggestions that missile production facilities exist in Lebanon, the source again insisted that there were none.

“Let them hit the one in the Bekaa. They will find that there’s nothing there,” the source said, referring to claims made by Israel last September that it had uncovered a precision-guided missile production facility in the Nabi Chit area.

According to its army chief, Israel has vastly increased its purchase and development of drones. Accordingly, Hezbollah will look for ways to counter this and maintain the deterrence it has developed over recent years.

Recently, Israel published a four-year military plan, ahead its formal approval by the nation’s security cabinet. Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran’s Quds Force continue to be the most pressing threat, the document states.

Israeli army spokesperson Jonathan Conricus has conceded that these groups have the capacity and structures of armies.

In a phone briefing last week, AFP quoted Conricus saying that Israel was preparing for a “massive and unprecedented barrage of rockets and missiles against the civilian population of Israel and its infrastructure.”

He added that these attacks might come from “two or three fronts” simultaneously.

Conricus further stated that Israel wants to “create a greater gap” between its capabilities and those of its enemies.

"We are going to acquire a quite massive amount [of drones], in order to have the ability to deliver ... very precise firepower against an enemy that is entrenched or embedded in urban terrain," Conricus said.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah will also continue developing the capabilities it has.

Bennett said last week that after meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Mark Esper, the two countries agreed for Washington “to take Iraq” and “we’re taking Syria.”

However, Iran will continue to increase and improve its proxies’ abilities in the face of Israeli aggression. And until a deal is struck between Washington and Tehran, the possibility of further conflict in the region remains high.

 

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