'Hezbollah may transfer weapons cache if Assad falls'

Lebanese weapons stashed in Homs and Damascus area, 'Le Figaro' reports; Israel concerned about fate of weapons amid Syrian uprising.

June 26, 2011 10:09
2 minute read.
Hezbollah rocket launcher

Hezbollah rocket launcher 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)


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A report in Le Figaro published Friday shed more light on a reported stash of Lebanese weapons destined for Hezbollah and hidden in Syria. In May, The Jerusalem Post reported that concern is growing among Western intelligence agencies that Hezbollah might try to transfer the advanced weaponry it reportedly maintains on Syrian soil if it feels that President Bashar Assad’s reign is on the verge of ending.

This is not the first time such information has been revealed. Last year, as the Post reported, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu revealed in a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that Hezbollah was storing Scud missiles in military bases in Syria.

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Friday's Le Figaro report included details on the locations of the weapons, noting that the majority of the stash was distributed in densely-populated urban areas including the southern city of Homs and cities just outside Damascus.

Also according to the report, Tehran and Damascus are worried that Israel might order an air strike on one of their convoys should they try to transfer the weapons across the border.

Hezbollah is believed to have stored other advanced arms in Syria – including long-range rockets – as part of its logistical deployment along Israel’s northern border.

Israel’s main concern in Syria has to do with the fate of the advanced missiles and extensive chemical weapons held by Assad’s military and the question of whose hands they would fall into in the event that his regime is toppled. Since Israel’s bombing of the nuclear reactor Assad was covertly building in 2007, Syria has put a stronger emphasis on chemical weapons and nonconventional warheads.

At the moment, the Syrian military is believed to still be in full control of its assets and troops, although some lowlevel soldiers have defected to the opposition.

A senior IDF officer said in May that Hezbollah and Iran were extremely concerned by the protests in Syria.

“They worry about what will happen to their axis, that included Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, if Assad falls,” the senior officer said. According to the officer, both Iran and Hezbollah have sent advisers to Syria to assist the military in quelling the growing protests.

In recent years, a significant portion of Hezbollah’s weaponry has been manufactured in Syria or smuggled into Lebanon via Syria. One known route was over land – originating in Iran, moving through Turkey, into Syria, and then into Lebanon. Another was by sea from Iran to Syria and then by land to Lebanon. There have also been instances of planes that have taken off from Iran and landed in Lebanon with weaponry.

The land route involving Turkey has for the most part been exposed and is no longer believed to be in use, due to a Turkish decision to distance itself from its relations with Syria amid Assad’s violent crackdown on his people.

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