Iran has been building a factory in Syria that can be used for the production and underground storage of long-range missiles capable of striking Israel, according to photos from Israeli satellite imaging company ImageSat.
Satellite images of the site in northern Syria show a Scud missile factory being built near the city of Baniyas, south of Latakia, in an area seen as a bastion of support for the embattled Assad regime, Channel 2 reported Tuesday.
Experts told Channel 2 the buildings match building methods seen in Iran, pointing to cooperation between Damascus and Tehran, one of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s largest backers.
Dirt berms can also be seen around the buildings in the satellite photos, ostensibly to protect them from attack.
The report said that construction on the site began last year and is expected to be finished by the end of 2017.
The site can also be seen in plain view on Google Maps.
In addition to the site in Syria, Iran is also reportedly building subterranean weapons factories for the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.
The French Intelligence Online magazine last month reported on two of the factories, one of which is being built in northern Lebanon, near the town of Hermel in the eastern Bekaa Valley. The second facility is reportedly being constructed along the southern coast, between the towns of Sidon and Tyre.
According to Intelligence Online, the Hermel facility is being used to produce the Fateh 110, a medium-range missile. The southern facility, meanwhile, will be used to make smaller munitions.
The Fateh 110 has a range of approximately 190 miles (300 kilometers) — enough to cover most of the State of Israel — and can carry a half-ton warhead. It is considered fairly accurate, though to what extent is a matter of debate, according to a US Congressional Research Service report.
Israel’s David’s Sling missile defense battery, which went operational in April, is meant to protect the Jewish state against medium-range rockets like the Fateh 110.
In March, the Kuwaiti al-Jarida newspaper reported that Iran had established multiple facilities some 50 meters belowground and protected them with multiple layers of defenses from potential Israeli aerial bombardment, citing an unnamed deputy head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Iranian general was quoted by al-Jarida as saying that the decision to produce rockets indigenously in Lebanon came after Israel bombed weapons factories in Sudan and supply routes for Iranian rockets via Syria.
The new factories would mark a dramatic upgrade in Hezbollah’s ability to acquire additional, and more precise rockets than ever before.
Rockets produced by some of the new facilities have already been used by Hezbollah in battles in Syria, the Kuwaiti report said.
The latest developments highlight the depth of Iran’s involvement in Syria and Lebanon, something that both Israel and some Arab states have warned against in recent months.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said in July that Israel is in the midst of a major campaign to thwart attempts by Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah to arm themselves with increasingly accurate missiles.
Addressing the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense committee, Eisenkot said that the primary concern for Israel was what he called the “accuracy project” — efforts by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah to equip themselves with accurate missiles.
“We are engaged in a whole campaign against the accuracy project and it is our top priority,” he noted.
Regarding the efforts by Hezbollah to obtain advanced rockets through Syria, Eisenkot said, “We are working all the time against the project with a wide variety of tools that it is best to keep quiet about, and with the aim of not causing a deterioration [in the situation].”
Defense Minister Avidgor Liberman also issued a public warning in July to Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons over the development of rocket manufacturing installations inside Lebanon.
“We are fully aware” of the rocket factories, Liberman told military correspondents in a briefing in Tel Aviv. “We know what needs to be done… We won’t ignore the establishment of Iranian weapons factories in Lebanon.”
In June, at the Herzliya Conference, IDF intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi said that “Iran has been working for the past year to set up indigenous infrastructures for producing precise munitions both in Lebanon and Yemen. We can’t ignore that, and we won’t.”