lebanon weapons cache.
(photo credit: IDF)
Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres said in an interview broadcast Wednesday that Hizbullah militants had used Russian-made weapons against Israel during the fighting in south Lebanon, despite Russian officials' claims to the contrary.
Peres told Ekho Moskvy radio that Israeli authorities were aware that Russia had asked Syria to explain how the weapons had gotten into the hands of Hizbullah.
"We saw these weapons, they had certain markings," Peres said. "As far as we know, the Russians demanded explanations from Syria."
Israeli officials said last month that a senior delegation went to Moscow to complain that Russian-made anti-tank missiles were used by Hizbullah guerrillas in their 34-day conflict with Israeli forces in Lebanon. They said that Iran and Syria passed the anti-tank missiles to Lebanon-based Hezbollah after buying them from Russia.
The Fagot and Kornet anti-tank missiles proved to be one of Hizbullah's most-effective weapons in combat, killing many of the 118 Israeli soldiers who died in the clashes.
Russian officials have rejected the allegations, saying that Moscow has maintained strict controls over its weapons sales to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said last month that Israel had provided no evidence of Hizbullah having the Russian-designed missiles.
Ruslan Pukhov, the head of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said that it was unlikely that Hizbullah had any significant numbers of the sophisticated missiles, which are capable of piercing the thick, multilayer armor of Israeli Merkava tanks. The think-tank monitors the global arms trade.
"Even if Hizbullah indeed got any of these weapons, they only could have got several pieces," he told The Associated Press. "Syria has few modern weapons and wouldn't scatter them around."