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Thousands of Missiles in Hezbollah's Arsenal


In this stage of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, there's been a dramatic escalation of technology, especially in the attack on Haifa.

Joining us from London, with more information about what's in Hezbollah's arsenal, is David Hartwell, a Middle East specialist with Jane's, the defense and intelligence analyst. Welcome, sir.

Mr. DAVID HARTWELL (Defense and Intelligence Analyst, Jane's Defence Weekly): Thank you very much.

ADAMS: Surprising in the Haifa attack - it's about 20 miles from the border -what rockets and missiles were used. What did you expect to see, and what indeed, did you see that may have surprised you?

Mr. HARTWELL: It seems to be that the Hezbollah were using either some of their stock of Fajr missiles, which they've acquired from, or been given, by the Iranians. It's a pretty unguided missile. For all intents and purposes, you point at a target and fire, and hope that it lands in a certain vicinity.

The systems that they're using are fairly rudimentary. And they would be a good, you know, we're talking decades-old guidances, rather than sort of anything up to date, or anything approaching with the Israelis possess.

ADAMS: Well, just in levels of sophistication, let me ask you about the - last week there was an Israeli ship, in the Mediterranean, hit by a missile. And this was said to be a radar-guided missile - perhaps with the help of the Lebanese military, perhaps with the use of Iran, Israel says so - that hit this Israeli ship. What was this weapon?

Mr. HARTWELL: That's a good question. That is not known at the moment. There have been claims that the Hezbollah have received a number of different weapons that they, so far, haven't used yet.

It's entirely possible that the Lebanese may have helped them in this scenario, given that, you know, the blockade of Beirut and Schiffli(ph), on these major ports. It is a strategic move by Israel.

So, in Lebanon's case, in defense they would feel justified in helping Hezbollah in this situation. What sort of form of technology are we using is difficult to ascertain.

Even the technology would be, again, be fairly rudimentary by if we're talking western standards, by U.S., by Israeli standards of technology. But then again, it doesn't need to be, if you're acting out of surprise. Which is what the Hezbollah were able to do in this attack. Because it appears that the Israelis had no idea that they possessed this capability.

ADAMS: Now, just to look a bit farther down range, is it possible that a missile could come from Lebanon and hit Tel Aviv, - which would be, what, 80 or 90 miles away?

Mr. HARTWELL: It's often cited as a strategic threat, by the Israelis. It remains unlikely at the moment. The Hezbollah do possess, or are alleged to possess, some rockets that could reach Tel Aviv. Possibly the Zelsal, which is possibly a hundred kilometer weapon. But they're not assessed to have many of these.

And what ones they have, they would be particularly unwieldy, particularly unguided, as well. So there would be no guarantee that they'd be hitting Tel Aviv.

There are dangers with Hezbollah seeking to widen this conflict even further, because you start hitting major population centers in Israel. You have the dangers, then, that Hezbollah will be killing Israeli Arabs and be killing Palestinians.

That would be not something that they would want to achieve. There will be ones that they restrict their attacks to Israeli populations centers, where they can be, you know, guaranteed that, you know, the only casualties that they will cause will be Israelis.

ADAMS: If it comes down to a fight between Israeli air strikes, with the planes, and missiles from Hezbollah, of whatever level of efficiency, what happens?

Mr. HARTWELL: Probably an Israeli victory, in short and sweet terms. The Israeli level of sophistication is far and away above anything Hezbollah currently possesses.

And although Israeli rightly suggests that the rockets Hezbollah has, do constitute a threat, the level or sophistication of anti-aircraft missile, say, may possess, for example, would be something that the Israelis should be able to counter.

ADAMS: David Hartwell is with the defense and intelligence and consulting firm, Jane's. And he joined us from London. Mr. Hartwell, thank you.

HARTWELL: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.