MESS Report / Can Israel Fend Off a Hezbollah Armed With Syrian Rockets?

Top IDF intelligence officer says alleged Scud shipment could be just the tip of the iceberg of Syria's arms transfers to Hezbollah.

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Hezbollah youth holding Katyushas near Nasrallah portrait


The recent reports that Syria is transferring Scud missiles to Hezbollah mainly served Israel's public relations needs. The Scud is a cumbersome weapon that requires a long time for launch preparation, meaning intelligence can usually detect the preparations in time to destroy the missile.

And aside from the new Scud-D variant, the missiles are not very accurate. But this is not what's most important: Hezbollah's very possession of Scuds attests to its murderous intentions.

Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, who heads Military Intelligence's research department, said Scuds are "the tip of the iceberg of Syria's arms transfers to Hezbollah."

That same day, the military censor, after months of delay, finally permitted publication of the fact that Hezbollah now has Syrian M-600 rockets - which carry smaller warheads than Scuds, but are much more accurate. With enough M-600s, Hezbollah could systematically bombard Israel's most strategic sites.

Moreover, unlike the Scuds, M-600s can be launched quickly, and Hezbollah has undoubtedly concealed them in urban neighborhoods to make them harder to locate. Thus M-600s are the true threat Hezbollah poses to Israel.

Israel's missile defense systems, meanwhile, are far from adequate. The army has ordered only two experimental Iron Dome systems against short-range rockets.

After the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the IDF concluded that a ground offensive was the best solution to missile fire on the home front.

But in the meantime, Israel's enemies have massively increased their missile stockpiles. And it is far from clear that the IDF has a good answer for a situation in which massive, accurate rocket fire shuts down ports and airports, impedes the operation of air force bases and forces the reserves to convene under heavy fire - or whether the home front, and the politicians, will have the stamina to hold out until an offensive produces substantive military gains.

Therefore, unless the IDF starts bolstering its defensive capabilities - and not just its offensive ones - it risks being prepared for the most convenient scenario, rather than one that is actually likely to happen.

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