(photo credit: AP)
Hizbullah has received hundreds of advanced surface-to-surface missiles from Syria that are capable of targeting Tel Aviv and causing extensive damage to Israel in the event of a future war with the Iranian-backed Shi’ite guerrilla groups, it was recently revealed.
Meanwhile, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Military Intelligence’s Research Division, told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that Syria was unquestionably transferring long-range rockets to Hizbullah, and that the recent reported transfers were just “the tip of the iceberg.”
The Syrian-made surface-to-surface missile, called the M600, is based on a solid propellant and is a clone of an Iranian missile called the Fateh-110. The M600 has a range of 250 km., carries a 500-kg. conventional warhead and is equipped with a sophisticated navigation system, giving Hizbullah accuracy it did not have until now.
Israel believes Hizbullah has obtained hundreds of M600 missiles, which pose a direct threat to Israeli population centers. While the Scud missiles that were recently transferred from Syria to Lebanon have a greater range, the M600 – due to the number of missiles Hizbullah has, and their accuracy – is perceived to be a more severe threat for the IDF.
Hizbullah is likely storing the M600 missiles in homes in central and northern Lebanon like the Iranian-made Zelzal and Fajr missiles, which were also stored in homes and were destroyed by the IAF on the first night of the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
Since the war ended, Hizbullah is believed to have accumulated an arsenal of over 40,000 rockets and missiles. Alongside the Scuds, the M600 is the most advanced missile in Hizbullah’s arsenal.
On Tuesday, Baidatz told the Knesset committee, as part of his regular briefing, that “Syria has a very respectable part in the increase in force of Hizbullah’s rocket arsenal.”
Baidatz said that despite Syrian denials, there had been transfers of long-distance rockets from Syria to Hizbullah, describing the recent transfer as “merely the tip of the iceberg.”
“Transfer of weaponry to Hizbullah is done regularly from Syria and is organized by the Syrian and Iranian regimes, and thus we should not call it weapons smuggling to Lebanon, but rather organized, real transfer.”
He added that Hizbullah currently had “an arsenal of thousands of rockets of all different types that use solid fuel and have a longer range and better accuracy.”
Unlike during the Second Lebanon War, Baidatz warned, Hizbullah will now be able to place the rocket launchers deep within Lebanese territories and yet reach deeper than ever into Israel.
In addition to the rockets, Baidatz said, Hizbullah has placed thousands of trained combatants in hundreds of villages south of the Litani River in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, drafted in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War.
“Hizbullah of 2006 is different from the 2010 model in terms of military capability, in which it has greatly improved,” Baidatz emphasized.
Meanwhile, Hizbullah deputy head Naim Kassem said the group reserved the right to rearm.
Speaking to Hizbullah’s Al-Manar television, Kassem added that the “land is our land, and no country in the world can restrict our arsenal.”
However, he ruled out the possibility of a war with Israel being on the
horizon, citing what he called Israel’s lack of logistical preparation
and its internal issues.
“The hand of Hizbullah is on the safety catch, and Israel is well aware of what awaits it,” he warned.
Despite the ties to Iran and support of Hizbullah, Baidatz said he
believed Syria was honest in its desire to reach agreements with Israel.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.