Syrian Weapons in Hizbullah Hands

(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University) Yiftah Shapir - Why would Syria move weapons to Hizbullah precisely when its army is in the midst of heavy fighting on Syrian territory? A likely possibility is that the Syrian army is transferring to Hizbullah systems that it does not immediately need for its fighting against the rebels, but which it is interested in keeping on Lebanese territory, where it is safer from rebel attacks. This could explain the transfer of Scud missiles, which are complicated to operate and require a large force; it is difficult to imagine that Hizbullah has the wherewithal to operate these systems. It could also explain the transfer of air defense systems: since the rebels do not have an air force. Advanced air defense systems in Lebanon would undoubtedly constitute a serious problem for Israel. The Israel Air Force (IAF) operates relatively freely over Lebanon today, gathering intelligence about both Lebanon and Syria. Until now, Hizbullah has apparently had very limited ability to interfere with this activity. The appearance of air defense systems such as the SA-17 is undoubtedly a red line for Israel, since their presence will make it difficult for the IAF to carry out most of its missions. Another possible danger is the appearance of Bastion anti-ship missiles in Lebanon. The system could endanger ships and coastal installations along the entire coast of Israel if deployed from Lebanon. Its entry into Lebanese territory would certainly constitute a red line for Israel. The writer is a senior research fellow at INSS.

2013-02-15 00:00:00

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