Hizbullah missile arsenal called strategic threat to Israel

Friday, April 2, 2004

TEL AVIV Hizbullah has significantly increased its missile and rocket arsenal over the past two years.

Israeli officials said Hizbullah has received more than 1,000 missiles and a range of rockets from Iran, Iraq and Syria in 2002 and 2003. They said the weapons included anti-tank missiles, Katyusha rockets and short-range missiles.

Knesset member Ephraim Sneh, a leading member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said Hizbullah's missile and rocket arsenal has been growing steadily, Middle East Newsline reported. Sneh said the Hizbullah missile capability has deterred Israel from retaliating for attacks by the Shi'ite insurgency group.

In all, officials said, Hizbullah has an estimated 12,000 rockets and missiles. They said the weapons have been deployed in southern Lebanon and presents a strategic threat to the Jewish state.

For several months, officials said, Iran and Syria withheld weapons shipments to Hizbullah during 2003. They said Syria, under Iranian pressure, allowed the resumption of missile and rocket deliveries at the end of last year.

Sneh said Hizbullah's military capability has exceeded that of assessments by Israeli military and security officials. He cited assessments in 2000 that an Israeli withdrawal, ordered by then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, would lead to a slowdown in Hizbullah's military buildup.

"I warned Barak that withdrawal without agreement from southern Lebanon would create a vacuum that would be filled by Hizbullah," Sneh said. "But I didn't imagine that the consequences would be so grave."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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