Newly released footage from fighting in Syria has given a first glimpse into a seemingly new addition to the arsenal of Lebanese terror group Hezbollah: attack drones.
The video, released on social media on Tuesday by a Hezbollah-affiliated media outlet, appeared to show the unmanned aerial vehicle dropping cluster bombs on three Syrian rebel positions, in support of the Syrian regime in the countryside surrounding Aleppo.
While Hezbollah, along with some other terrorist groups, have been known to operate pilotless drones for reconnaissance purposes or in kamikaze-style strikes for over a decade, this video is the first visual evidence that the Iran-backed organization has used UAVs capable of carrying out bombings.
The group has claimed to have this capability for nearly two years. In September 2014, the Iranian Fars news site reported: “Hezbollah drones for the first time bombed the headquarters of the terrorist al-Nusra Front at Lebanon’s border with Syria, killing and wounding tens of the terrorists.”
Iran first outfitted the Shiite group with drones back in 2002. Three years later, Hezbollah used one of those UAVs, a Persian model known as an Ababil, to enter Israeli airspace and conduct a reconnaisance mission, much to the chagrin of the Israeli Air Force.
The video confirming the use of attack drones will could affect the calculus used by Israeli military planners, who see a new bout of fighting with Hezbollah as a matter of when and not if.
While Israel uses Patriot missiles and other methods to shoot down drones, their efficacy was called into question last month when a UAV breached Israeli airspace and failed to be knocked down despite three attempts.
It was recently revealed that the drone, suspected to have belonged to Hezbollah, actually belonged to Russia and entered Israel by accident.
Hezbollah first used drones in attack missions during the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, loading Ababil drones with explosive material and sending them to crash into Israeli targets, according to a new research paper written by former Washington Institute analyst Nadav Pollak
The cluster bombs shown in the video appear to be Chinese-made MZD-2 submunitions. The MZD-2, also known as the type-90, contains an explosive charge, wrapped in tiny plastic or metal balls.
During the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah fired thousands of these cluster bombs at Israel and IDF troops, according to a 2008 Human Rights Watch report.
“Demining groups have found 1,207 Chinese-made MZD-2 submunitions in Lebanon, 1 percent of the total submunitions cleared so far,” the human rights group wrote.