Russia has deployed troops on the Syrian-Lebanese border to prevent the transfer of weapons and precision-guided technology to Hezbollah, a senior diplomatic official said on Thursday.
The official said that this deployment, as well as IDF actions inside Syria to disrupt the transfer of these weapons and technology, which will turn ordinary missiles into precision-guided ones, has had a significant impact. Hezbollah has only been able to convert “a few dozen” of their estimated 140,000 missiles in Lebanon into precision-guided weapons.
The official said that Hezbollah had hoped by now to have converted thousands of missiles into precision-guided ones.
As the route to transfer arms and technology from Iran through Syria and into Lebanon has become increasingly difficult, there have been numerous reports of a direct air route from Iran to Lebanon, with planes landing at Beirut’s international airport bearing arms.
The official warned that if there is such a direct route from Iran, it would constitute a “huge entanglement” for Lebanon, since Israel has made clear that it will act against any efforts to arm Hezbollah with precision-guided missiles.
The official said that there was a “reasonable possibility” that Israel will have to take action in Lebanon.
These comments came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefed some 25 ambassadors in Misgav Am on Thursday about Operation Northern Shield
, Israel’s campaign to detect and destroy Hezbollah’s attack tunnels.
One diplomatic official said that the purpose of the briefing with ambassadors was to create legitimacy for future military actions if the need should arise.
Netanyahu told the ambassadors, including envoys from Russia, France, the UK, Austria, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Ethiopia and the EU, that the “big enemy” Israel is facing is Iran
, and that Tehran is working on two fronts: one is developing a nuclear arsenal, which Israel is actively trying to prevent on a number of different levels; and the other is to develop conventional weapons against Israel, such as the precision-guided missiles and terror tunnels.
Israel is acting “systemically and with determination” to deny Hezbollah this tunnel weapon, Netanyahu told the ambassadors. “We will act as long as needed,” he said.
Netanyahu added that Hezbollah’s tunnels are just one expression of Iran’s aggressiveness in the region.
Austria’s ambassador Martin Weiss posted a tweet from the briefing quoting Netanyahu as saying that “these tunnels are big enough for troops, big enough to use motorcycles, to attack, to kidnap – this is a serious threat.”
Netanyahu asked the ambassadors to condemn the violation of Israel’s sovereignty, and to support Israel’s demand for greater sanctions against Hezbollah.
“Israel expects an unequivocal condemnation of Hezbollah, the imposition of additional sanctions on Iran, a condemnation from the Lebanese government and a demand that it stop giving its approval for the use of its territory for these attacks against Israel,” he said.
“Our action [against the tunnels] is only in the beginning stage,” he stated. “But at the end the tunnel weapon, which Hezbollah has invested so much money in, will not exist or be effective.”
A senior diplomatic official said that Israel has been following Hezbollah’s attack-tunnel project for four years, and decided to act against it now before the organization could use the tunnels to infiltrate large numbers of fighters into Israel to wreak havoc.
The official added that now Hezbollah can do nothing to prevent Israel’s detection and destruction of the tunnels.
The source said that Operation Northern Shield, which was approved by the security cabinet on November 7, was one of the reasons that the IDF did not embark on a large-scale operation in Gaza following last month’s barrage, when 460 rockets were fired into Israel from the coastal strip. He added that this was not the only reason, but did not elaborate.
In addition to dealing with the tunnels and thwarting efforts to arm Hezbollah with a huge arsenal of precision-guided missiles, the IDF, the official said, has acted against Iranian militias in Syria and even blown up bases there.
“The IDF is the only army in the world that has fought against the Iranian army,” the source said, adding that Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria has been halted and was starting to roll back as the number of Iranian forces there has decreased significantly.
In addition to meeting with Netanyahu, the ambassadors were briefed by OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Strick and OC Planning Maj.-Gen. Amir Abulafia, who gave them a tour of the area of the tunnel that was uncovered near Metulla.
Weiss said that the tour and briefings showed that the tunnels represent a “clear and present threat, and are not just little mouse holes.”
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