Israel raises Hezbollah rocket estimate to 150,000

Israel raises Hezbollah rocket estimate to 150,000

New assessments suggest the Lebanese terror group is ramping up efforts to acquire weapons

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

In this May 22, 2010 photo, a Hezbollah fighter stands behind an empty rocket launcher while explaining  various tactics and weapons used against Israeli soldiers on the battlefield. (AP/Hussein Malla)
In this May 22, 2010 photo, a Hezbollah fighter stands behind an empty rocket launcher while explaining various tactics and weapons used against Israeli soldiers on the battlefield. (AP/Hussein Malla)

Israeli officials believe that the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah has amassed around 150,000 rockets, including a number of long range Iranian-made missiles capable of striking Israeli cities from north to south.

The estimates represent a 50 percent increase in the group’s weapons stockpiles since May, when a senior Israeli intelligence official put the number at 100,000.

The revised valuation on rockets suggests Hezbollah is ramping up efforts to acquire weapons whose purpose is to attack Israel, despite its deep involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Hezbollah forces have been operating in Syrian territory for over three and a half years. Thousands of the organization’s fighters are thought to be on Syrian soil and hundreds, some say thousands, have been killed there, including at least one senior officer.

The organization has simultaneously continued to amass short- and medium-range rockets from Syria while also increasing its cache of Iranian-made long-range missiles.

Hezbollah has also established a fleet of unmanned combat drones, designed for more than simple intelligence gathering.

The group is continuing its efforts to acquire SA-17 and SA-22 ground-to-air missiles as well as P-800 Oniks air-to-sea missiles. In light of the events in Syria and and the ongoing civil war, as well as the Israeli attacks on weapons convoys en route to Hezbollah, the organization has upped its efforts to bring in more Iranian weapons.

The group fought a three-week war with Israel in 2006 that saw thousands of rockets pound Israel’s north. Israeli officials say they consider the transfer of advanced weapons to the group to be a red line; a number of airstrikes in Syria have been attributed to Israeli efforts to stymie the movement of missiles.

On Wednesday, websites affiliated with the Syrian opposition reported an Israeli strike near Damascus airport.

Witnesses described huge explosions, and blasts could be heard for several minutes. According to number of unconfirmed reports, the target of the strikes was an Iranian arms shipment destined for Hezbollah. Less than two weeks ago, Syrian media reported that Israel Air Force jets attacked military bases of both the Assad regime and Hezbollah in the Qalamoun Mountains region near the border with Lebanon.

Despite the assessment of increased weapons stockpiles, the prevailing view in Israel is that Hezbollah is not interested in a confrontation or a war now.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that his organization was “proud that the little Satan and the great Satan devoted their meeting in the White House to the issue of Hezbollah,” referring to discussions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama.

“Hezbollah is at the forefront and in a real position of influence over the region,” he said.

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