The Lebanese terror group Hezbollah has reportedly been constructing a fortified base inside Syria that it may be using to store Iranian ballistic missiles with the range to hit Israel.
Satellite images of an area on the northern Lebanese-Syrian border show that Hezbollah has been consolidating positions it conquered from Syrian rebels in June 2013, global intelligence company Stratfor said Wednesday.
Photos show several facilities in the region around Qusair, including one large compound surrounded by an earthen berm. Villages up to four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the base have been razed to enable clear observation of the territory, and tunnels have reportedly been dug back under the border and into Lebanon.
Other sources said there are long-range missiles at the base including Iranian-manufactured Shabab-1, Shabab-2, and Fateh-110 ballistic missiles, although there was no satellite confirmation to back up the claim.
“While these missiles could prove crucial in the event of a large-scale Israeli ground offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon, they are not beyond the reach of the Israeli Air Force,” the report said. “Notably, imagery does not show significant underground facilities at the base capable of protecting this weaponry.”
The missiles are estimated to have ranges from 200 to at least 1,000 kilometers (125-625 miles), putting all of Israel within striking distance.
Several airstrikes in Syria, attributed to the Israeli Air Force, reportedly targeted advanced weapons shipments to Hezbollah. Although Israel has never publicly admitted to carrying out the strikes, it has vowed to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining any game-changing weapons.
One source said the plan is to also store Katyusha rockets, mortars, and howitzers at Qusair as well as to station some of Hezbollah’s 60 T-72 battle tanks at the base. Additional intelligence reported four munitions factories in the complex.
Stratfor said the installation is part of a Hezbollah plan to keep a force of 3,000 fighters in Syria as well as provide a base of operations for its sponsor, Iran. An Iranian diplomatic source claimed officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps make frequent visits to the positions near Qusair, Starfor said.
Hezbollah conquered the area while fighting on behalf of the Syrian government against rebels in the country’s civil war.
Based on information from diplomatic sources and those described as “close to Hezbollah,” Stratfor assessed that Hezbollah will strive to further increase its presence in Syria as a precaution against the possible ousting of President Bashar Assad’s regime by rebels.