IDF publishes photos purporting to expose Hezbollah precision missile factory

Army claims compound built by Lebanese terror group with help from Iran is designed to manufacture motors and warheads of missiles with an accuracy of less than 10 meters

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

An aerial photo of what the IDF says is a site designed to produce and convert precision missiles in the Lebanese Bekaa Valley. (Israel Defense Forces)
An aerial photo of what the IDF says is a site designed to produce and convert precision missiles in the Lebanese Bekaa Valley. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces announced on Tuesday that it had identified a facility in southern Lebanon being used by Hezbollah to convert and manufacture precision-guided missiles.

The compound located near Nabi Sheet in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon was established several years ago by Iran and Hezbollah for weapons manufacturing, the army said in a statement, which came less than two weeks after a drone attack in Beirut attributed to Israel reportedly damaged key components of the project.

Shortly before the IDF lifted a self-imposed embargo on its findings, international media spokesman Jonathan Conricus tweeted that the army would be exposing another one of Hezbollah chairman Hassan Nasrallah’s “lies.”

In a speech televised on Saturday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said that while his Iran-backed organization has some precision missiles, there was no production taking place in Lebanon.

“We do not have precision missile factories. This is a lie and a pretext that [Prime Minister  Benjamin] Netanyahu is adopting to carry out aggression,” Nasrallah said.

An aerial photo of what the IDF says is a Hezbollah facility designed to manufacture engines in the Lebanese Bekaa Valley. (Israel Defense Forces)

Hezbollah is believed to have over 150,000 missiles, but only a small number of them can be guided to specific sites. Israel fears in a future war, the terror group could use a barrage of precision missiles to attack sensitive facilities and overwhelm its air defense array.

Israeli planes have carried out airstrikes in Syria to foil efforts by Iran to smuggle the advanced weapons into Lebanon, according to authorities. Jerusalem believes Tehran is now trying to develop domestic production in Lebanon because of the danger involved in trying to move the weapons from Iran to Lebanon.

The army said that the site it exposed has recently established “a dedicated assembly line for precision weapons” and contains several machines supplied by Iran “designed to manufacture the motors and the warheads of missiles with an accuracy of less than 10 meters.”

“This facility is of superior importance to the Hezbollah precision missile project, which is why Hezbollah, in fear of strikes, evacuated precious and unique equipment from the compound to civilian locations in Beirut,” the army said, appearing to hint at the reasoning behind the August 25 strike attributed to Israel.

The IDF claimed that the exposed factory is divided into sections for motor production, quality assurance, manufacturing of explosives for warheads and logistics.

Israel has threatened to act militarily against the missile program if Beirut or the international community do not stymie Hezbollah.

In a Monday briefing to reporters, a senior Israeli official said that he had directed the military roughly five months ago to prioritize the foiling of a joint Hezbollah-Iranian project to manufacture precision-guided missiles in Lebanon.

According to the official, the project became a top priority for Israel’s security apparatus, overtaking the issue of Iranian entrenchment in Syria, and was second only to Tehran’s nuclear program.

In this October 9, 2016 photo, Hezbollah fighters stand atop a car mounted with a mock rocket, as they parade during a rally to mark the seventh day of Ashoura, in the southern village of Seksakiyeh, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

“We changed the order of our threats based on the understanding that we cannot afford [allowing] precision-guided missiles in Lebanon,” the official explained, adding that the Islamic Republic has began struggling in its effort to gain a foothold in Syria and has since worked to do so in Iraq, Yemen and other neighboring countries.

According to a Monday Channel 12 news report, Israel was ready to launch a massive retaliation against Hezbollah’s precision missile program in Lebanon, and only opted against carrying out that plan because no IDF soldiers were hurt in a Sunday cross-border attack by the terror group.

“The fact that [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah missed and didn’t kill any Israelis saved Hezbollah from the destruction of its precision missile program,” an IDF source was quoted as saying. “The planes were already in the air.”

Hebrew media reports said that the IDF medical vehicle carrying five soldiers nearly sustained a direct hit from Hezbollah anti-tank fire during Sunday’s attack along the northern border, as it drove along an unprotected road in an apparent breach of army directives — with luck, rather than effective military planning, preventing the death or injury of the soldiers inside.

The reports appeared to contradict Israeli military sources’ claims on Sunday that an IDF vehicle that Hezbollah targeted was parked or empty at the time. They aligned with footage released by Hezbollah-affiliated TV earlier Monday and with Israeli security camera footage that was published shortly thereafter. That footage showed two anti-tank missiles apparently narrowly missing an IDF vehicle on the road between Moshav Avivim and Kibbutz Yir’on near the northern border.

The IDF said that no Israelis were injured in Sunday’s attack, but Hezbollah has maintained that its strike killed and injured Israeli soldiers.

Pictures and videos showing injured soldiers being evacuated via helicopter from the scene had been a ploy meant to trick Hezbollah into thinking it had caused casualties, Israeli sources said.

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