Hezbollah boasts of 'precision' weaponry, vows to maintain presence in Syria
TUNIS - Israel’s attempts to halt the supply of precision armoury to Hezbollah have failed, the group’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah told crowds during a speech at the closing of the Shia festival of Ashoura.
"I tell (Israel) no matter what it did to cut the route, it is over. It has already been achieved," Nasrallah said, adding that Hezbollah "now possesses precision missiles and non-precision weapons capabilities.”
While Nasrallah did not specify the class of missiles he was referring to, only going so far as to say they were “highly accurate,” his televised speech did elicit a response from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who warned Hezbollah’s leader: “If he confronts us, he will receive a lethal blow that he can’t even imagine.”
The Israeli military estimates that Hezbollah possesses somewhere between 100,000 and 120,000 short-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred longer-range missiles, all regarded as serious threats.
Israel has long been trying to halt Hezbollah’s military build up on its borders, striking at any target where it believes the group’s sponsor Iran may be provisioning it. Many of these strikes have occurred within Lebanon or at Hezbollah’s forward positions in Syria, where it has been heavily deployed in support of Syrian President Basher Assad.
During his recent address, Nasrallah told crowds that Hezbollah fighters would continue to be deployed across Syria.
However, he accepted that their numbers would be reduced after Syrian government forces regain control of most of the country’s rebel-held areas and an agreement between Russia and Turkey defers action against the rebel-held province of Idlib.
“We will stay there (in Syria) even after the settlement in Idlib. Our presence there is linked to the need and the consent of the Syrian leadership,” Nasrallah said in the televised address.
Israel recently conceded that it has carried out more than 200 air attacks over the past 18 months in Syria, as Tel Aviv sought to halt Iranian forces embedding there and prevent Hezbollah from acquiring sophisticated weaponry.
Thus far, none of the Israeli strikes have been resisted by Damascus’ other principal ally, Russia. However, Israel’s freedom to navigate the skies over Syria may be restricted following the accidental downing of a Russian military plane earlier this week.
Though Israel disputed its involvement, Russia continues to allege that Israeli jets forced the transport plane into the path of Syrian anti-aircraft fire as they sought to use the aircraft as a shield.
At the time of the Russian plane’s downing, Israel was thought to have been targeting an ammunitions depot linked to Hezbollah.
All 15 Russian crew members were killed.