Friday, April 27, 2007

Tehran arms Lebanese Hizballah militia with air defense missile wing as part of war build-up

DEBKAFILE - April 17, 2007

April 15, on the eve of Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day, Hizballah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards commanders staged a grand ceremony at the Imam Ali base in northern Tehran to celebrate the launch of Hizballah's anti-air missile wing. They cheered the 500 Lebanese graduates of a course in the use of three anti-air missiles supplied by Iran:

The Sayyad 1 (Hunter), the Misagh 1 (Convention [with Allah]) and the Shahab Sagheb (Meteor), which is based on the Chinese Feimeng-80 system.

DEBKAfile's military sources report that these new weapons will seriously restrict the Israeli Air Force's tactical freedom over Lebanon. In the event of hostilities, Israeli warplanes will have to evade a dense array of Hizballah-operated anti-air missiles which will also defend the terrorist group's surface rocket batteries.

Those sources disclose that the Iranian-Chinese missile has already been smuggled into Lebanon and is in Hizballah's hands. It is designed to shoot down planes and helicopters flying at ultra-low altitudes under radar screens for surprise assaults on ground targets such as military bases, missile positions and artillery. Ordinary radar and air defense missiles are mostly ineffective against these low- flying tactics. The new missile makes up for this shortcoming.

On March 7, the 500 Hizballah trainees flew out of Damascus airport for Tehran aboard two civilian airliners; on April 16, they returned home - again through the Syrian airport - after training in the Imam Ali base under Iranian experts commanded by Iranian Col. Mohammed Mnafi.

DEBKAfile hears from military circles wry remarks to the effect that, while Israel's heads of state and chief of staff solemnly declared: "Never again!" in speeches marking Holocaust Remembrance day, they are seriously short on action for curbing Hizballah-Hamas preparations for their next war on the Jewish state. Surface missiles are routinely smuggled into Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, unopposed. But the arming of Iran's Lebanese proxy with deadly anti-air missiles poses a new and extraordinarily threat to the Israeli Air Force and, moreover, prevents air attacks on the Hizballah batteries shooting rockets into Israel. Questions are being asked about how Israel's policy- makers and top brass could have allowed 500 Hizballah trainees to fly out of Damascus airport unhindered and return as air defense specialists, highly trained for shooting missiles at the Israeli Air Force and preventing Israeli warplanes from halting surface rockets should they fly against Israeli civilian locations once more.

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