Weapons Advances Aided Hezbollah's Rise Hezbollah's arsenal is reportedly quite strong, with Russian Katyusha rockets that, although capable of traveling 30 to 40 miles, are not highly precise. A few longer-range missiles acquired from Iran also are not precision weaponry.
NPR logo

Weapons Advances Aided Hezbollah's Rise

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5563392/5563393" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Weapons Advances Aided Hezbollah's Rise

Weapons Advances Aided Hezbollah's Rise

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5563392/5563393" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

One measure of Hezbollah's growing strength in recent years, is distance. How deep into Israeli territory can Hezbollah strike with its missiles, and with how much force or accuracy?

Israel has been able to stage air strikes deep into Lebanon, but the missiles that reached Haifa marked a new level of penetration by Hezbollah. And Israel claimed today, that an air strike in Lebanon destroyed at least one long-range, Iranian-made missile that is capable of hitting Tel Aviv. That's Israel's biggest city, and it's about 80 miles south of the border with Lebanon.

So, what do we know about the Hezbollah arsenal? Well, Mark Perry is American director of the British group, Conflicts Forum, and you're in touch - both with Israelis, but also with Hezbollah?

Mr. MARK PERRY (American Director, Conflicts Forum): My organization's had a number of discussions with Hezbollah over the last two years, at the very top of their organization, and as you mentioned, also with Israeli, with Hamas, with other political Islamic organizations in the region.

SIEGEL: Let's start with the weapon that we hear about most often when things are fired from Lebanon into Israel, the Katyusha rockets.

Mr. PERRY: A very interesting story. One of the world's really great weapons, if you can describe a weapon as great. It was called Stalin's Organs in World War II, and it was made as part of the Red Army, introduced in 1943 on the eastern front.

It has since been re-engineered. It's a very robust weapon. You can make it very cheaply and you can make many of them, but it's not a precision weapon. The Soviets used to line them up wheel-to-wheel, and just fire in the general direction of the Germans. It's a terrifying sound when it's launched, and this is the vast majority of the Hezbollah arsenal.

SIEGEL: They don't go very far?

Mr. PERRY: It's a tactical weapon, it's a battlefield weapon. We're talking 30 or 40 miles. Depending on angle and where you point it, it can go a little bit further, but not much.

SIEGEL: Now, there are longer-range missiles that Hezbollah has acquired. It is always said that they come from Iran. What do you know about them.

Mr. PERRY: They are what we would call a medium range. And again, a tactical weapon, and they're a non-precision weapon. You do point them in the general direction of where they're supposed to go. They have a robust warhead, but nothing compared what I think we would call in the American or Israeli arsenal, a real tactical precision warhead.

The Fajrs, 3s and 4s - there is talk of a Fajr-5 - can land in Haifa. They can dominate a battlefield if you have enough of them. But Hezbollah does not have in its arsenal - and they use them very sparingly -they do not have many of these weapons in these arsenal, and they really do aim them at urban areas.

SIEGEL: If you have a missile that is capable of reaching, say, 80 miles to Tel Aviv from Lebanon, do you store it somewhere, hide it away, and then bring it out with a truck, or is it in a fixed launching position? How do you use it?

Mr. PERRY: There are very few fixed-launching-position missiles, and Hezbollah does not use them this way. They're not capable of using this way. Israel has very good eyes in the skies. They control the air, and they can spot these at quite a long distance. So they are rolled out, set up quickly, moved quickly. This is a cat-and-mouse game. Israel tries to take them out as fast as they can, and the game for Hezbollah is to launch them before they're spotted.

SIEGEL: An Israeli demand for ceasefire, is that the Lebanese army, as the U.N. Security Council suggested, should be deployed in the south. The Lebanese army on the one hand, Hezbollah on the other. I mean, is Hezbollah better armed, with missiles, than the Lebanese army?

Mr. PERRY: Absolutely. Hezbollah is one of the strongest forces in the region, perhaps even third- or fourth-strongest force in the region. It's not that large of a force, but it's extremely well trained and it's extremely well armed, even though these are light arms.

Hezbollah could defeat the Lebanese army in the field, if the Lebanese army were actually deployed against them, which seems to me is unlikely. Most of the enlisted soldiers in the Lebanese army are Shiite, and they would not take on their brother Muslims.

SIEGEL: When you've spoken with people from Hezbollah about their weapons, are they candid about the Iranian origin of these things, or are they discrete about that?

Mr. PERRY: They're candid. They do not apologize for their strategic relationship with Iran. They're brother Shiites of the Iranians. They're very proud of their religion, they're very proud of their ties. On the other hand, I think it's kind of a stretch to assume that they take orders from Tehran.

This is more of a consultative relationship. But they don't hide the relationship with Iran at all, and they believe that their defense of their homeland is legitimate. And they believe that the operation they carried out the other day is legitimate.

SIEGEL: Mark Perry, thank you very much.

Mr. PERRY: My pleasure.

SIEGEL: Mark Perry is the American director of the British group Conflicts Forum.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.