The IDF on Thursday revealed details of Hezbollah’s Iranian-backed precision-guided missile project, days after drone attacks attributed to Israel targeted a site in Beirut reportedly used by Hezbollah to manufacture key components of the project. The Israeli military also revealed the identities of four senior Iranian and Hezbollah officials involved in the project.
According to the IDF statement, Iran began its efforts to deliver ready-to-use precision-guided missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2013-2015, under the auspices of the civil war in Syria. Most of these attempts were thwarted by attacks attributed to Israel, and Hezbollah failed to acquire such missiles.
Given those failures, in 2016, Iran and Hezbollah shifted their strategy from transporting whole precision-guided missiles to converting “dumb” rockets into precision-guided missiles on Lebanese soil.
According to the IDF, the plan was to smuggle precision missile components from Iran to Lebanon, for the sake of converting ordinary rockets from the “SARS” Center for Scientific Research in Syria into precision-guided missiles.
To sustain the conversion of “statistic” rockets into precision-guided missiles, Hezbollah established facilities across Lebanon, including in Beirut. The commander of the Lebanon Corps in the Quds Force, Muhammad Hussein-Zada Hejazi, oversaw the project, under the guidance of Qassem Soleimani, chief of Iran’s Quds Force.
The materials are transported in three routes: a land route from Syria to Lebanon through the official border crossings of the State of Lebanon (such as the Al-Matsna Crossing); an aerial route using civilian flights arriving at Hariri International Airport in Beirut; and a maritime route of ships through the port of Beirut.
In 2016-2018, Iran and Hezbollah found it difficult to implement the missile conversion in the new sites, and failed to meet their production targets. Over the past few months, Iran and Hezbollah have been working to accelerate the missile precision project through an attempt to establish new production and conversion sites in several locations in Lebanon.
The IDF also revealed the identity of three senior Iranian officers who lead the project: Brig. Gen. Muhammad Hussein-Zada Hejazi, Col. Majid Nuab, and Brig. Gen. Ali Asrar Nuruzi.
Hejazi is the Lebanon commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, responsible for all Iranian activities in the country and in charge of the precision-guided missile program. He operates directly under the command of Quds Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Nuab, an engineer who specializes in surface-to-surface missiles, is the technological manager of the project. He actively manages and oversees the precision missile sites in Lebanon. Nuruzi is the chief logistics officer of the IRGC, and is in charge of transferring logistical components and equipment from Iran through Syria to the project sites in Lebanon.
Senior Hezbollah terrorist Fu’ad Shukr, a senior military adviser to Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and a member of the Jihad Council, the group’s highest military body, is the main Hezbollah operative involved in the project. A Hezbollah member for over 30 years who reportedly replaced Mustafa Badreddine after he was killed in 2016, Shukr is wanted by the US government for his role in planning and executing the 1983 bombing of US Marines barracks in Beirut that killed 307 people.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said exposing the details of the program was meant to send a signal to Israel’s enemies.
“We will not stand idly by and let our enemies arm themselves with deadly weapons. Already this week, I told our enemies: Watch your actions. Now I am telling them: Dir Balak,” Netanyahu said, using an Arabic phrase meaning “Watch out.”
[Sources: The Times of Israel, The Jewish Press, The Jerusalem Post]