US official warns of Hezbollah missile threat

Thursday, April 29, 2010

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, along with Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak, warned yesterday that that the guerrilla group Hezbollah was in possession of more weapons than some governments.

Gates, after meeting with Barak, said that both Syria and Iran were responsible for providing weapons of "ever increasing capability" to Hezbollah, although he declined to confirm that the group had gained possession of ballistic missiles called Scuds that are capable of reaching targets within Iran. According to Gates, Hezbollah's military capabilities were "obviously destabilising for the whole region."

Barak said that missiles owned by Hezbollah had the potential to "disrupt the very delicate balance in Lebanon," although he stated that a military conflict as a result of the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah was unlikely. He said that "We [Israel] do not intend to provoke any kind of major collision in Lebanon, or vis-a-vis Syria," though he added that "we are watching closely these developments and think that they do not contribute to stability in the region."

Syria has denied the charges of providing Hezbollah with weapons, saying that Israel intended to "further strain the atmosphere in the region." The country's prime minister also commented that Israel was only trying to find an excuse for military action.

Hezbollah in 2006 launched thousands of missiles into Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War, and Israel is concerned that it has replenished its armament to the extent that it could attack Israel on behalf of Iran if the latter, which provides both arms and monetary aid to Hezbollah, came under attack from Israel. These concerns were confirmed by an American report released last week, which said that Hezbollah had indeed rearmed itself to higher levels than during the 2006 conflict.