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Friday, August 18, 2006

Israel to Moscow: Hezbollah used Russian-made missiles against IDF

Israel has complained to Russia that Russian-made anti-tank missiles have reached Hezbollah guerrillas who used them against Israel Defense Forces troops in south Lebanon, government officials said Friday.

An Israeli delegation traveled to Moscow earlier this week to deliver the
complaint, said Asaf Shariv, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The anti-tank missiles proved to be one of Hezbollah's most effective weapons in combat with Israeli soldiers in Lebanon. Such missiles killed at least 50 of the 118 soldiers who died in the 34-day war that ended this week.

Another government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media, said the delegation was "senior," but refused to say who they would be meeting with in Russia.

Israel does not accuse Russia of directly arming Hezbollah, but complains that Russia sold the weapons to Iran and Syria, known supporters of Hezbollah, who then passed them on to the guerrilla group.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said Russia maintains strict controls over its weapons sales, and that tight supervision "makes any inaccuracy in weapons destinations impossible."

Anatoly Tsyganok, head of Russia's Military Forecasting Center, ruled out the possibility that modern anti-tank weapons had reached Hezbollah through Russia or Syria.

"Any accusations alleging Russian or Syrian deliveries of anti-tank weapons to any forces in Lebanon are unfounded. The Israeli side has not presented any evidence of this, and it is unlikely that it will," Tsyganok was recently quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

"Most probably, such weapons, should Hezbollah militants really have any,
might have been brought to Lebanon through third countries," he added.

At least 20 Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed over the course of one month's fighting in Lebanon as a result of anti-tank missile fire from Hezbollah guerillas.

Although the IDF has yet to provide detailed data, it is widely acknowledged that many tanks were seriously damaged from the missiles (and other explosives), and some tanks were completely destroyed.

It is clearly evident that Hezbollah exerted considerable effort in preparing and training its anti-tank units in addition to its build-up of its Katyusha rocket arsenal.

Hezbollah has at its disposal a wide variety of missiles provided by Iran and Syria, including the advanced "Kornet" and "Metis" models - whose range reaches a number of kilometers - as well as the upgraded Sagger missiles, TOW anti-tank missiles, and older-model rocket-propelled grenades.

The missiles, which were fired at a distance of up to 2 kilometers from their target, enabled Hezbollah to strike at IDF tanks and armored vehicles. In addition, the weapons also proved useful for fighting in built-up urban areas.

In the village of Aita Shaab, Hezbollah fighters armed with the missiles were able to score precise hits on buildings which IDF soldiers used for cover. Hezbollah also successfully targeted IDF troops who sought to advance in open areas.

Soldiers who returned from the front recounted how Hezbollah operatives were able to fire missiles accurately through windows of homes in which soldiers stayed.

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