Gov’t concerned French arms for LAF will go to Hizbullah

Israel hopes to use "back channels" to resolve concerns after French PM sends letter confirming sale of 100 missiles to Beirut.

shahin missile 2 311 (photo credit: AP)
shahin missile 2 311
(photo credit: AP)
Israel is concerned by the possible transfer of French anti-tank missiles to Lebanon, defense officials said on Saturday amid news reports that Paris has informed Beirut it is prepared to sell 100 HOT missiles to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).
The officials said that Israel had lodged a complaint with the French earlier this year after learning of the intention to sell the advanced weapons to Lebanon.
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Israel’s concern is that the missiles could fall into the hands of Hizbullah and be used against the IDF in a future war.
Hizbullah already has a significant arsenal of Russian-made anti-tank missiles, mostly provided by Syria. The United States had also provided the LAF with military aid over the past year, before freezing it in August after a Lebanese soldier shot and killed IDF reserve battalion commander Lt.-Col. Dov Harari along the border. The hold on the aid was lifted last month.
“We have good relations with the French and hope that in back channels this can be resolved,” one official said on Saturday.
In Paris, the office of Prime Minister Francois Fillon confirmed that a letter regarding France’s decision to sell the missiles had been sent to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
The French-made HOT antitank missile is one of the most advanced of its kind in the world, with a range of up to approximately 4 kilometers and the ability to penetrate around 1,000 mm. of armor. It can be installed on either vehicles or helicopters.
According to one government official, Israel has raised the issue in recent months with a number of countries that have proposed selling weapons to the LAF, in order to counter Hizbullah’s growing power.
Israel’s argument is that Hizbullah is slowly taking over Lebanon and therefore weapons sold to the Lebanese army are liable to find their way into Hizbullah’s arsenal.
The Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, had no immediate comment on the matter.
During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Israeli armor came under heavy fire from Hizbullah anti-tank missiles, which succeeded in penetrating over two dozen tanks. Since the war, the IDF has purchased active-protection anti-tank missile defense systems such as the Trophy, which is manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and is being installed on Merkava Mk 4 tanks.