Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist group that plays a large role in Lebanese politics and is propping up Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, has been moving advanced missiles from Syria into Lebanon, according to U.S. officials interviewed by the Wall Street Journal Thursday. Israel, which fought a war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, has launched limited air and naval strikes on shipments of advanced missiles, so Hezbollah is smuggling them in as components.
On Friday, the New York Times reported that Hezbollah’s new weapons include long-range Scud D missiles, which could strike targets throughout most of Israel. In 2006, Hezbollah’s arsenal consisted largely of short-range Katyusha rockets, which could only strike northern Israeli cities. Both Hezbollah and Hamas, the Palestinian terror group in Gaza that relies on locally-made Qassam short-range rockets, have obtained longer-range Iranian missiles in recent years.
According to the Journal and the Times, some of the components Hezbollah is smuggling into Lebanon including Russian-made anti-ship missiles, which Israel has targeted upon delivery to Syria. The move could be an attempt to deter an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Israeli analyst Ronen Bergman, interviewed by the Times, said that Hezbollah previously stored some of these missiles in Syria but that the ongoing civil war made those stockpiles far less secure.
Bergman added that Hezbollah was moving “Scud D’s, shorter-range Scud C’s, medium-range Fateh rockets that were made in Iran, Fajr rockets and antiaircraft weapons that are fired from the shoulder.” Israel has refrained from intervening in the Syrian conflict except to prevent the transfer of “game-changing” weapons to local terrorist groups. The smuggling effort is far more complicated than moving the weapons whole, but prevents their detection and destruction.