With the latest revelations about terrorist organization Hezbollah’s success in transporting at least some long range missile systems in to Lebanon, it is becoming clear that Israel’s first move in any future war with its any of its neighbors would be to take out this threat.
Hopefully, the IDF has learned from its mistakes during the 2006 Lebanon war, when it expanded its involvement in incremental stages, exposing meanwhile the civilian population in northern Israel to an unprecedented barrage of rockets. The next confrontation must start with heavy bombing attacks that would minimize later damage to Israeli cities like Kiryat Shmona, Tzfat, Nahariya and Tveria.
Israel’s airforce attacked inside Syria at least five times in 2013, with the aim of destroying long range rocket systems before Hezbollah laid their hands on them, and before they reached their destination in south Lebanon, where such an attack would have started a new skirmish with the terror group.
Those airstrikes managed to stop shipments from Syria and Iran of ground-to-air SA-17 antiaircraft weapons and ground-to-ground Fateh-110 rockets to Hezbollah locations.
According to U.S. officials who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, some 12 anti-ship guided-missile systems are in Hezbollah’s hands inside Syria. Israel tried to take out those Russian-made systems in July and in October, but, according to U.S. damage assessments, did not manage to complete the sweep.
The U.S. believes Hezbollah was able to smuggle at least parts from those systems into Lebanon in 2013, including supersonic Yakhont rockets, but the rest of those systems are still waiting to be delivered from Syria.
“To make it lethal, a system needs to be complete,” a senior defense official told WSJ.
But Israeli national security analyst Ronen Bergman has told the NY Times that most of the long-range surface-to-surface missiles given to Hezbollah by its allies Iran and Syria have already been disassembled and moved to Lebanon.
According to Bergman, Hezbollah has a network of bases inside Syria, near the border with Lebanon, offering the terror group strategic depth and storage for the missiles.
But with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah’s ally, mired in a 3-year civil war, keeping the missiles in Syria is no longer a safe option, Bergman suggested.
The missiles being moved, Bergman told the Times, include some of the missiles the Israeli airforce has targeted 5 times: Scud D’s, shorter-range Scud C’s, medium-range Iranian Fateh rockets, Fajr rockets and shoulder antiaircraft weapons.
Israeli intelligence sources have estimated that Hezbollah has around 100,000 rockets, but those are mostly “dumb,” unguided weapons that are less accurate. Its longer-range rockets are spread across Lebanon, meaning Israel’s next air campaign against Lebanon would have to be broad.
Meanwhile, Israel announced this morning its second successful test of the Arrow 3 interception system. The test was observed by senior Defense ministry and IAF officials, as well as representatives of the U.S. defense Dept. and the manufacturers involved.
So far, the new rocket has gone successfully through the stages of flying above the Earth’s atmosphere. Next they’ll start testing taking down incoming long-range rockets. The system is expected to become operational in 2015.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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