debkafile: An Israeli F15 fighter bomber intercepted a Hizballah Zelzal ground-ground missile of 160km range east of Beirut Monday, July 17

According to the rough estimate of Israeli military intelligence, this loss leaves Hizballah with another 11 of these heavy weapons, although its stockpile may prove to be somewhat larger. The descent of the Zelzal shown on Lebanese TV gave rise to the false report that an Israeli warplane had been shot down.
debkafile‘s military and aviation sources report: Israeli fighter jets do not patrol Lebanese byways on the hunt for missiles to shoot down. They certainly do not dive-bomb buildings. They fly at an altitude of 20,000 feet over the Mediterranean Sea and from that height they survey the ground below and drop bombs. Neither Hizballah nor any armed or terrorist force as far north as Turkey is in possession of anti-air weapons capable of downing a jet from that altitude. Therefore, the description of the mysterious object seen on Lebanese TV as a downed Israeli warplane was not credited.
Equally, the Israeli helicopters fighting Hizballah in South Lebanon keep a safe distance from their targets. To stay out of range of anti-air fire, the helicopters do not cross the border but locate and bomb their targets from the Israeli side of the border. When Israeli aircraft spotted the Zelzal launcher truck moving on a road east of Beirut near Baabdeh, the crew waited for the right angle of fire. It halted at the gates of al Ghawar Lebanese army training camp and then an Israeli F15 fighter bomber aimed at and hit the missile. It hit the vehicle, but then the unexpected occurred: the truck exploded but the missile detonated partially and flew up to the sky. It then dropped to the ground like a stone bursting into flames but landing practically intact.
It is not known if Hizballah had planned to fire the Zelzal, which would have been a major escalation, Monday, July 17, or was transferring it to a forward launching site. Neither is it clear why they should have consigned it to Beirut. Firing this missile from Beirut would have brought it to a point between Haifa and Hadera, whereas launched from the border, the missile could reach northern Tel Aviv. debkafile‘s military sources report a second so far unused missile in the Hizballah arsenal, the Fajr-5 whose range covers Hadera.

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