‘Hezbol­lah has only hand­ful of pre­cise mis­siles due to IDF’

Diplo­matic source: Rus­sian troops help­ing to stop weapon trans­fers from Syria and Iran

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - • By HERB KEINON

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.” •

(Haim Zach/GPO)

PRIME MIN­IS­TER BEN­JAMIN NE­TANYAHU met with for­eign am­bas­sadors in the north­ern sec­tor near IDF forces, who are op­er­at­ing to ex­pose and neu­tral­ize the ter­ror­ist tun­nels.

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