Hizbollah leaks signal Lebanon escalation

The detailed account of the Hizbollah missile shipments that appeared this week in Le Figaro is another indication of the escalation in the intelligence war being waged by the West against the Iran-Syria-Hizbollah axis.

According to the French newspaper, special Hizbollah units are operating in Syrian and Lebanon to prepare launching sites for an attack on Israel.

The report that appeared in Le Figaro on Monday was attributed to sources in the French Defence Ministry.

It details the various Hizbollah units which are involved in accepting medium and long-range missiles, flown to Damascus airport from Iran.

The IDF revealed it has a ‘bank’ of targets

The missiles are then stored in two military bases near Damascus, where Hizbollah teams are trained to use them. Some of the missiles are kept there and others are shipped over the Lebanese border, sometimes through tunnels and usually by night and during periods when the Syrian electricity grid is shut down.

Another unit distributes the missiles to Hizbollah bases deep in Lebanon, which can be used also as launch sites. The entire process is done with guidance from Iranian advisers.

Hizbollah is known to have M-600 missiles, adapted from the Iranian Fateh-110, with a range of 300km. It also has a version of the Russian-made Scud missile, with an even greater range.

Operating these missiles would allow Hizbollah to fire on targets in central Israel from sites well away from the border. It is not yet clear how many of these missiles have already been transferred into Lebanon, although reports in February described a major Israeli air operation to prevent the smuggling of missiles from Syria to Lebanon.

Israeli intelligence estimates that Hizbollah currently holds over 40,000 missiles of all ranges.

The report in Le Figaro comes after a series of similar reports in recent months on the efforts of Syria and Iran to build up Hizbollah's strategic missile capabilities.

Until now, most of the reports have originated in newspapers in the Gulf states, especially Kuwait, and have been based on "Western intelligence sources".

Four months ago, the IDF revealed to the Israeli media that it had assembled a "bank" of hundreds of detailed targets in Lebanon. Most of these targets are in Shia villages and towns in southern Lebanon.

This week's report in Le Figaro would indicate that Israeli and Western intelligence agencies are aware of - and hold detailed information on - Hizbollah's military infrastructure in other areas of Lebanon including around Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley.

Leaking this information to the media, some Israeli analysts believe, could be a signal that the IDF will not hesitate to strike at these targets in the near future if there is any sign of escalation.

This seems to be an attempt to deter Iran from using its proxy on Israel's border in case of an impending attack against its nuclear programme.

This week, Iran began loading fuel into the core of its nuclear reactor at Bushehr, with the aim of having it fully functional by January.

    Last updated: 4:19pm, October 28 2010