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Friday, August 11, 2006

Anti-Tank Weapons Inflict Heavy Losses on Israeli Army

Fri, 11 Aug 2006, 02:10

Powerful anti-tank missiles manufactured by Russia and Iran are being used with deadly effectiveness by Hizbollah against the Israeli army in southern Lebanon, military sources say.

A large proportion of the 68 Israeli soldiers who have died in south Lebanon since the start of the offensive a month ago were killed by such missiles.

Top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot reported Aug. 10 that out of 25 anti-tank missiles fired, about one-quarter of them pierced the armor of targeted tanks and caused heavy losses.

”The terrorists know where the weak spots are, and we are being badly hit,” the newspaper quotes a senior official as saying.

The attacks are a blow to the pride of Israel’s army. Merkava III and IV tanks are considered among the most powerful in the world and have a reputation for extremely resistant armor and protective systems.

Merkavas boast 1,200 horsepower and are equipped with state-of-the-art electronic systems that should make them some of the safest and most mobile tanks in the world.

But Israel’s tanks, crucial for any ground operation in southern Lebanon, have proved vulnerable to the attacks of Hizbollah and ill-adapted to the hilly and heavily wooded terrain.

Israeli military officials have also admitted surprise at the level of resistance they are meeting from Hizbollah fighters, who are well-trained and have been firing at tanks from very close range.

The bulk of the Shiite militia’s anti-weapons are Russian-made models, although some were manufactured in Iran, said expert Yiftah Shapir from the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.

”The most efficient missiles are the Metis-M and the Kornet manufactured by Russia and delivered to Syria in the nineties,” he told AFP.

”They are very lethal because they have been designed to penetrate active armor on modern tanks such as those the Israelis were the first to introduce in the early eighties,” Shapir said.

Hizbollah also has the latest Sagger missile, a Russian weapon manufactured in Iran, as well as the Russian Spigot, the expert said.
These missiles have the ability to pierce armor as thick as one meter (39 inches) and have a range of 1.5 to five kilometers (one to three miles).
”The Israeli army knew that Hizbollah had a large arsenal of missiles, but maybe they didn’t know they had the Metis-M and the Kornet,” Shapir added.

Yediot Aharonot quoted a senior military official as saying the army’s lack of preparedness for the threat of anti-tank missiles “is a bigger failure than that which preceded the Yom Kippur War.”

The Israeli army has dramatically underestimated Egypt’s ground forces ahead of the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict.

”The problem isn’t technical,” said Shapir. “They will always end up finding the answer to the new generation of missiles just like they did in the past.”

”The most important thing is that the Israeli army finally understand that they are not up against a gang of terrorists but a real army.”

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