Israel's enemy is no ragtag militia
Anti-tank missiles proving deadly
Aug. 5, 2006. 01:00 AM
JERUSALEM—Hezbollah's sophisticated anti-tank missiles are perhaps its deadliest weapon in the fighting in Lebanon, 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 militia.
Hezbollah has fired Russian-made Metis-M anti-tank missiles and owns European-made Milan missiles, the army confirmed yesterday.
In the last two days alone, these missiles have killed seven soldiers and damaged three Israeli-made Merkava tanks, vaunted as symbols of Israel's might, the army said. Israeli media say most of the 44 soldiers killed in four weeks of fighting were hit by anti-tank missiles.
"They (Hezbollah guerrillas) have some of the most advanced anti-tank missiles in the world," said Yossi Kuperwasser, a senior military intelligence officer who retired earlier this summer.
"This is not a militia, it's an infantry brigade with all the support units," Kuperwasser said.
Israel contends Hezbollah 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 and why fighting Hezbollah after it has spent six years building up its arsenal is proving so painful to Israel, officials say.
"To the best of my understanding, they (Hezbollah) are as well-equipped as any standing unit in the Syrian or Iranian armies," said Eran Lerman, a retired army colonel and now director of the Israel/Middle East office of the American Jewish Committee. "This is not a rat-pack guerrilla, this is an organized militia."
Besides the anti-tank missiles, Hezbollah 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 used by Palestinian militants in Gaza to damage tanks.
Yesterday, Jane's Defence Weekly, a defence industry magazine, reported that Hezbollah asked Iran for "a constant supply of weapons" to support its operations against Israel.
It cited Western diplomats as saying Iranian officials promised Hezbollah a steady supply of weapons "for the next stage of the confrontation."
Top Israeli intelligence officials say they have seen Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers on the ground with Hezbollah troops. They say that permission to fire Hezbollah's longer-range missiles would likely require Iranian go-ahead.

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