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Two days after an Iranian missile caught an Israel Navy ship off guard, with deadly consequences, the IAF decided on Sunday to change its operational procedures out of concern that Hizbullah might have highly-advanced anti-aircraft missiles.
Meanwhile, IAF strikes near Tyre killed several senior Hizbullah officials overnight Saturday.
On Friday, Hizbullah gunmen, working in conjunction with members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, fired a radar-guided missile at the INS Hanit (Spear) missile ship off the Lebanese coast, killing four seamen. The IDF later said it had been unaware that Hizbullah had such projectiles and that the ship had not been using its anti-missile defense system.
"We are not taking any chances," a high-ranking IAF officer told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. "We are taking the worst-case scenario into consideration and are operating accordingly."
Since the beginning of Operation Change of Direction, the IAF has carried out close to 2,000 sorties over Lebanon utilizing an array of aircraft ranging from fighter jets and attack helicopters to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and intelligence-gathering drones, IAF commander Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Shkedy said Sunday night.
The IDF, a high-ranking Military Intelligence officer said Sunday night, was operating on the assumption that Hizbullah was in possession of most of Iran's advanced weaponry. Syria, the officer said, had transferred missiles and rockets to Hizbullah in recent days, including one that killed eight people and wounded 20 others in Haifa on Sunday.
"That is why we bombed the Damascus-Beirut highway," the MI officer said. "To impair the ability to transfer weaponry from Syria to Hizbullah."
Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah, the officer said, appeared "worn out and tired" in his television appearance on Sunday. The IAF had destroyed Nasrallah's office and home in Beirut and he was in hiding, the officer said, along with other leaders of the Islamist organization.
A senior IAF officer told the Post Sunday afternoon that the air force was using bunker-buster bombs to strike at senior Hizbullah officials in hiding throughout Lebanon. According to the officer, several of the bunker hideouts were hidden under civilian parking lots.
The officer said the air force had encountered some resistance, including anti-aircraft shells fired at IAF aircraft.
On Sunday, the Post has learned, the IDF destroyed five long-range rocket launchers in southern Lebanon, some of which had been used to fire rockets at northern Israel, including Haifa, over the past few days.
Meanwhile Sunday, the IDF deployed a Patriot missile battery outside Safed. On Saturday, three batteries had been deployed outside Haifa. Senior IDf officers stressed that the Patriots would not be effective again Katyusha rockets, but could only intercept larger, long-range ballistic missiles.