The majority of Israel Defense Forces ground troops casualties, both infantry and armored, were the result of special anti-tank units of Hezbollah, according to intelligence sources.
The same sources note that these units have not retreated from southern Lebanon following the deployment of large IDF ground forces in the area.
The Hezbollah anti-tank teams use a new and particularly potent version of the Russian-made RPG, the RPG-29, that has been sold by Moscow to the Syrians and then transferred to the Shi'ite organization.
Some of the IDF casualties resulted when the rockets struck homes in which IDF troops had taken positions. This was the case when four soldiers of the elite Egoz unit were killed in the village of Bint Jbail. In that case a Sagger anti-tank missile had been used.
The RPG-29's penetrating power comes from its tandem warhead, and on a number of occasions has managed to get through the massive armor of the Merkava tanks.
The IDF had intelligence information on Hezbollah plans to deploy specialized anti-tank teams in order to delay the advance of IDF ground forces. The special focus Hezbollah gave to anti-tank weapons as part of their doctrine was revealed during the raid on the border village of Ghajar in November 2005.
During that attack, Hezbollah fighters attempted to kidnap IDF soldiers, and some of the guerrillas were killed and their bodies left behind.
This was the same unit that fought in Bint Jbail and whose men were killed there.
During the battle at Ghajar, which is inside Israeli territory and has an Alawite population, Hezbollah fighters fired more than 300 anti-tank rockets of different types, including the new RPG-29, which targetted various armored vehicles and two Merkava Mark-2 tanks. One of the two tanks had the necessary armor to deflect the missiles, but the other took a hit to the body.
Following the battle at Ghajar, Israeli inquiries that Russia was transferring modern anti-tank weapons to Syria and on to Hezbollah were received with anger. The Russians demanded proof that this had been done.
Contrary to common practice, Israel transferred to Russia the tail-end of a rocket for analysis. The Russian response was that in the absence of a serial number they were hard pressed to identify it as part of a load delivered to Syria.
The IDF believes Hezbollah also has an advanced anti-aircraft missile, the SA-18, from Iran. It is particularly lethal against helicopters, and even though none of the missiles have been fired against Israel Air Force aircraft, the flights over Lebanon are taking the necessary precautions.
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