OCCUPIED JERUSALEM â€” Hizbollah’s sophisticated anti-tank missiles are perhaps the group’s deadliest weapon in Lebanon fighting, with their ability to pierce Israel’s most advanced tanks.
Experts say this is further evidence that Israel is facing a well-equipped army in this war, not a ragtag group.
Hizbollah has fired Russian-made Metis-M anti-tank missiles and owns European-made Milan missiles, the army confirmed on Friday.
On Thursday and Friday alone, these missiles killed seven soldiers and damaged three Israeli-made Merkava tanks _ mountains of steel that are vaunted as symbols of Israel’s military might, the army said. Israeli media say most of the 45 soldiers killed in four weeks of fighting were hit by anti-tank missiles.
â€œThey [Hizbollah fighters] have some of the most advanced anti-tank missiles in the world,â€ said Yossi Kuperwasser, a senior military intelligence officer who retired earlier this summer.
â€œThis is not a militia, it’s an infantry brigade with all the support units,â€ Kuperwasser said.
Israel contends that Hizbollah gets almost all of its weaponry from Syria and by extension Iran, including its anti-tank missiles.
That’s why cutting off the supply chain is essential â€”Â and why fighting Hizbollah after it has spent six years building up its arsenal is proving so painful to Israel, officials say.
Israel’s Merkava tanks boast massive amounts of armour and lumber and resemble fortresses on tracks. They are built for crew survival, according to Globalsecurity.org, a Washington-based military think tank.
Hizbollah celebrates when it destroys one.
â€œA Zionist armoured force tried to advance towards the village of Chihine. The holy warriors confronted it and destroyed two Merkava tanks,â€ the group proclaimed on television Thursday.
The Israeli army confirmed two attacks on Merkava tanks that day _ one that killed three soldiers and the other killing one. The three soldiers who were killed on Friday were also killed by anti-tank missiles, the army said.
It would not say whether the missiles disabled the tanks. â€œTo the best of my understanding, they (Hizbollah) are as well-equipped as any standing unit in the Syrian or Iranian armies,â€ said Eran Lerman, a retired army colonel and now director of the Israel/Middle East office of the American Jewish Committee. â€œThis is not a rat-pack guerrilla, this is an organised militia.â€ Besides the anti-tank missiles, Hizbollah is also known to have a powerful rocket-propelled grenade known as the RPG29. These weapons are also smuggled through Syria, an Israeli security official said, and were previously used by Palestinian fighters in Gaza to damage tanks.
On Friday, Jane’s Defence Weekly, a defence industry magazine, reported that Hizbollah asked Iran for â€œa constant supply of weaponsâ€ to support its operations against Israel.
The report cited Western diplomatic sources as saying that Iranian authorities promised Hizbollah a steady supply of weapons â€œfor the next stage of the confrontation.â€ Top Israeli intelligence officials say they have seen Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers on the ground with Hizbollah troops. They say that permission to fire Hizbollah’s longer-range missiles, such as those could reach Tel Aviv, would likely require Iranian go-ahead.