Syria has defied Israel's caution that handing over new strategic weapons to the Lebanese Hizballah would compel Israel to strike targets inside Syria. debkafile's military sources disclose that Damascus has just smuggled across the border a number of Russian-made IGLA-S surface-to-air missiles capable of intercepting low-flying F-16 warplanes, drones, helicopters, cruise missiles, transports and surveillance aircraft in all weather conditions, by day or night.
Tuesday, March 2, the head of the research division of Israeli Military Intelligence, Brig. Gen. Yossi Beidetz, reported to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee that Syria had smuggled to Hizballah strategic weaponry more sophisticated that it had ever dared transfer before.
Beidetz did not specify the type of missiles, but our US sources disclosed he was referring to the advanced Russian IGLA 9K338, a shoulder-mounted missile which poses a threat to low-flying aircraft and other flying projectiles in all weather conditions. Its other prime asset is that it is virtually impossible to jam its launch and trajectory with electronic counter-measures.
The US sources could not say whether these missiles were taken out of the stock recently consigned by Moscow to Iran's Revolutionary Guards or delivered to Syria and thence to Hizballah.
debkafile's military sources report that the IGLA-S in Hizballah's hands will seriously hamper Israeli Air force surveillance activity over Lebanon and curtail its operational options against the surface-to-surface rockets when positioned to shield them against attack.
Its presence in the Hizballah armory means that the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite extremists will be free to loose their missiles and rockets against Israeli towns in relative safety, with Israeli aircraft hard-pressed to destroy them.
Moscow and Damascus have covered the IGLA-S transaction to a third party by defining the system as defensive. However, seen from Israel, it adds another layer to Hizballah's aggressive capabilities by shielding its massive array of rockets against aerial attack.
While visiting Washington last week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that, if attacked by Hizballah, Israel would also go for its sponsors, Syria and Iran.