TEL AVIV (ISRAEL), 9 Nov. (IPS) Verbal menaces between Israel and Iran are bound to escalate after it was confirmed that Tehran assisted its Lebanese surrogate to fly a unmanned aircraft over northern parts of Israel, taking pictures.
“Iranian experts on unmanned airborne vehicles (drones) from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards took part in the launch from Lebanon of a Hezbollah drone that spent several minutes over northern Israel this week”, a well-known Israeli military analyst disclosed Tuesday in the independent newspaper “Ha’aretz”.
Iranian experts on drones from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards took part in the launch from Lebanon of a Hezbollah drone that spent several minutes over northern Israel.
Although the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah organisation had reported on 7 November 2004 that in "response to frequent Israeli aggressions against Lebanese airspace, it had flown drones over northern Palestine (Israel), yet this is the first time that such an Iranian by proxy operation against Israel is reported; using territories in southern Lebanon controlled by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, experts said.
Israeli papers, in bitter criticism of their Defense forces, described the drone operation as "Israel's Air Forces shame" while the Foreign Affairs Minister denounced the Islamic Republic as the "world's terror master".
“If Iran is ready to take the risk with such a direct involvement, it could slide into even riskier moves”, warned Mr. Ze’ev Schiff, a noted military correspondent with close links with Israeli military and intelligence establishments.
General Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, the acting Commander in Chief of Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Monday had warned Israel against attacking Iranian nuclear installations.
His comments were an answer to recent press reports that Israel is considering the destruction of Iranian nuclear facilities on the same pattern they used for the bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981.
The United States and Israel accuse Iran of seeking to develop atomic bombs under cover of a civilian nuclear program. Iran denies the charges saying it only intends to produce electricity from nuclear power plants.
Mr. Zolqadr described Israel’s threats against Iran as “political bluffing” and warned that Tehran would strike back at the Jewish State or any other country that attacked Iran’s nuclear installations.
"Not Israel, but no other power in the world is capable of attacking Iranian nuclear centres. However, if Israel or any other country attacks any site in Iran, we know no limits to threaten their interests anywhere in the world", Mr. Zolqadr said, adding that the enemy cannot sustain an “all out riposte from Iranian armies.
According to Mr. Zolqadr, considered as a hard line officer, no nation would dare to attack Iran’s 10 millions trained basijis (volunteers) and one million soldiers “ready to defend their Islamic state”.
The first launch of an Iranian drone by Hezbollah ended with the plane crashing on its way back to Lebanon, Schiff said in his report, adding that apparently, the drone carried a camera capable of transmitting images back to a receiving station somewhere in southern Lebanon.
According to the military correspondent who did not disclosed the source of his story; this is the first time that Iranians were involved directly in launching the drone and preparing it for its mission.
“The drone was Iranian made. It was developed and built in Iranian plants in the 1990s. The aircraft is considered technologically very simple, with a pre-programmed route that is installed before launch. During the flight, a camera sends images back to a ground station, which was supposedly manned by Iranians, and the plane is apparently supposed to land by parachute”, the Israeli military journalist revealed.
The Iranians supplied several such planes to the Hezbollah, just as they supplied rockets. One of the Iranian conditions for the supply of the drones was that Hezbollah get clearance from Tehran before any launch.
The Hezbollah operatives were trained in the use of the plane by experts from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
“What makes it unusual is that Iranian military experts from the Revolutionary Guards sent their people to a third country to act against Israel”, Ha’aretz said in an clear warning to both Lebanon and Syria, adding that “it is possible the Lebanese did not know about the activity and the preparations and did not know about the Iranian involvement, but since it took place on Lebanese territory, the Lebanese government is directly responsible for the act of aggression”
“Lebanon also cannot wash its hands of the affair and pretend innocence. The launch and other military activity shows Iranians are in Lebanon, under the patronage and cover of Hezbollah, doing whatever they want and its arguments won't hold water if Israel decides to react to similar incidents in the future”, Mr. Schiff observed.
If Iran is ready to take the risk with such a direct involvement, it could slide into even riskier moves.
Syria continues to maintain military units in Lebanon while Lebanon operates through the Revolutionary Guards and other bodies.
Lately, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has bragged that his organisation can restrain Israel in the aerial sphere. He declared Hezbollah would change the aerial-military equation
“It is reasonable to assume he had received surface-to-air missiles from either Syria or Iran”, Schiff said, noting that the existence of a few drones will not change the balance of power in the air with Israel, even if the drones can penetrate Israel much deeper, and even if they carry cameras or even explosives.
However, the drone penetration certainly surprised Israel's air defenses and lessons can be expected to be learned from the incident.
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