US: Scud delivery uncertain

Officials say while intent exists, actual transfer is in doubt.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, AP
April 16, 2010 19:24
2 minute read.
A Scud missile

Scud missile. (photo credit: AP)

 
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US officials expressed doubts Saturday as to whether Scud missiles were recently delivered to Hizbullah from Syria, as has been alleged.

While senior American officials told Reuters that the “intent” was probably there and that some sort of transfer may have taken place, it was unclear “if the rockets themselves have changed hands."

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The Syrian delivery may have instead included other weapons as well as documents and funds, the officials said.

Regardless of whether it possesses Scud missiles or not, Hizbullah has missiles that will enable it to hit most of Israel, and Syria can hit the entire country, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i said Saturday.

“The Arabs understand that they have no chance of beating the IDF on the battlefield and so they have developed the ability to bypass [the army] and hit the heart of the population,” he said.

A Hizbullah government minister refused Friday to confirm or deny the Israeli allegations.

In the first Hizbullah comment on the charges, minister Hussein Haj Hassan said the group was always arming and preparing itself but, "what we have is not their business."



Israeli defense officials have said they believe Hizbullah has obtained Scud missiles capable of hitting targets anywhere in Israel. President Shimon Peres earlier this week directly accused Damascus of providing the weapons.

Israel has not offered proof to back up the claim, and Syria's Foreign Ministry strongly denied the charge, saying it "believes that Israel aims through these claims to further strain the atmosphere in the region."

It added that Israel could be setting the stage for a possible "aggression in order to run away from the requirements of a just and comprehensive peace."

Haj Hassan told Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV Friday that Israel possessed all kinds of weapons, including nuclear warheads.

"It's only natural for Lebanon to have the means to defend itself against an Israeli attack," he said.

Hizbullah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has said his followers have more than 30,000 rockets and are capable of hitting anywhere in Israel. Those claims match Israeli intelligence assessments.

Some Scud missiles have a range of hundreds of kilometers, meaning that guerrillas could launch them from deeper inside Lebanon and farther from Israel's reach. Scuds can carry a warhead of up to 1 ton, making them far larger than the biggest rockets previously in Hizbullah's arsenal, and are also more accurate.

Also Friday, around 20 villagers from the southern Lebanese town of Abbasiyeh removed a barbed wire that was set up three days earlier by IDF troops just south of the Blue Line, which separates Israeli and Lebanese forces.

The demonstration was a protest against the fence, placed by Israel earlier this week. Some Lebanese say the Blue Line is not accurate and had given parts of Lebanon to Israel. The villagers were led by a lawmaker close to Hizbullah, Qassem Hashem.

UN spokesman Andrea Teneti said the villagers also removed a minefield sign and placed Lebanese flags near the location.

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