STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT-Israeli media reported that the Israeli army is concerned about what it describes as “a significant change in the concept of air defence by Hezbollah in Lebanon, following the party’s doubling of the number of air defence systems in its possession, in an attempt to restrict the freedom of action of the Israeli Air Force in Lebanon.”
Israel’s Maariv newspaper reported on Friday that the Israeli army considers “Hezbollah’s decision to restrict the Israeli Air Force with available Russian air defence systems, SA8 and SA22, is a fundamental change in Hezbollah’s strategic concept, within which attempts are being made to restrict the Israeli Air Force’s freedom to operate during normal hours.”
The newspaper added that Israeli estimates indicate that Hezbollah “doubled the amount of air defence systems in its possession during the last five years, and that these defence systems are based mainly on modern Iranian systems.”
It pointed out that “the improvement of these capabilities by Hezbollah is ongoing and this is expressed, according to Israeli estimates, in the availability of these systems for rapid use and in accordance with the decision of the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah.”
The Israeli security service believes that “the attack by an Israeli drone, in August 2019, of a facility in a building in the heart of the southern suburbs of Beirut, the stronghold of Hezbollah, which has been described as a facility to improve the accuracy of missiles, initiated the turning point in Hezbollah’s strategy, and the threat by Nasrallah at the time to “start shooting down Israeli drones.”
According to the newspaper, “Hezbollah implemented this threat two months later, when it fired a SA8 missile at an Israeli Hermes 450 drone, which was on an intelligence-gathering mission, but the missile missed the target.”
The newspaper pointed out that the Israeli army “monitored the vehicle from which the missile was launched, and requested to target it, but the Israeli political level, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu did not approve of this, in anticipation of an escalation.”
The newspaper added that the Israeli army “views this event as extremely important for the future, and that it motivated Nasrallah to show other field capabilities. This was followed by three attempts by Hezbollah to shoot down Israeli drones.”
Afterwards, the Israeli army discussed “the possibility of targeting Hezbollah’s air defence systems, then removed this issue from its agenda, while Hezbollah enhanced its arming with air defence systems,” said the newspaper.
Last Monday, Hezbollah announced that it had shot down an Israeli drone that infiltrated Lebanese airspace in the Azziya valley near the southern Zibqin. The party’s media outlet confirmed the downing of the drone in a brief statement, without mentioning other details about the incident.
The spokesman for the Israeli occupation army also admitted to the drone being shot down in a brief statement in which he said, “A drone was downed in Lebanese territory during a routine activity, and there is no fear of information being leaked.”