US concerned Israel's Iron Dome would be overwhelmed in Hezbollah assault

Risk of Israel's layered air defense becoming inundated rises significantly if Hezbollah opts to use significant number of precision-guided weapons, US, Israeli officials tell CNN

09:44 - 21/06/2024 Cuma
File photo
File photo

Biden administration officials are concerned that the volume of missiles and drones Hezbollah possesses could overwhelm Israel's layered air defense systems, including its vaunted Iron Dome, according to a report Thursday.

Three anonymous US officials told CNN that the fears are also being expressed within the Israeli government as Tel Aviv prepares to launch a potential air and ground invasion in Lebanon amid months of tit-for-tat attacks with Hezbollah across a shared border.

“We assess that at least some” Iron Dome batteries “will be overwhelmed,” a senior Biden administration official told CNN.

That is more likely if Hezbollah uses its precision-guided weapons, which are more difficult to intercept, an Israeli official told the cable news network. The concerns were echoed by another anonymous source.

Hezbollah's vast arsenal is estimated to include more than 150,000 missiles and rockets, including thousands of precision-guided weapons, as well as an array of drones, some advanced, that have been supplied by Iran. The Lebanese group has used the weapons to carry out attacks in recent months and employed drone assets to carry out reconnaissance missions into Israel.

A more than nine-minute spy drone video released by Hezbollah on Tuesday called into question the effectiveness of Israel's air defense network and includes footage of several sensitive military sites and economic hubs.

That includes the Rafael Military Industries Complex, air defense sites and the Port of Haifa in the north. It also includes a video of the aircraft returning north from an undisclosed location deeper inside Israel.

Another video released earlier this month appeared to show Hezbollah using a suicide drone to strike an Iron Dome battery in northern Israel.

Concerns about the potential for Hezbollah's weapons to overwhelm Israel's air defenses come amid months of increasingly dangerous, but so far limited, military confrontations between the rivals.

Hezbollah and Israel have fought a series of wars dating to Israel's 1982 invasion of southern Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War. Hezbollah ultimately defeated Israel, which retreated from southern Lebanon in 2000.

The 2006 Lebanon War also ended with a stalemate touted by Hezbollah as a victory. Israel withdrew from Lebanon following 34 days of conflict but failed to accomplish its principal aim -- the retrieval of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who were abducted in a Hezbollah attack that precipitated the war.

The years between and since have seen a series of lower-grade clashes between Hezbollah and Israel, but fears have mounted that the months of cross-border attacks that have followed Israel's invasion of the besieged Gaza Strip could easily spill into a wider conflict.

“The fact that we have managed to even hold the front for this long has been a miracle,” an anonymous senior US official told CNN, referring to efforts to prevent the fighting from deepening.

“We're entering a very dangerous period,” said another senior official. “Something could start with little warning.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Arab counterparts during a recent visit to the Middle East that Israel appears intent on invading Lebanon, a source familiar with the meeting told CNN.

Israeli officials have told the US they are intent on creating a buffer zone in southern Lebanon, free of Hezbollah fighters, to allow communities in northern Israel to return after they were evacuated due to the Lebanese group's attacks, according to CNN.

In addition to its vast arsenal of weapons, Hezbollah has up to 50,000 full-time fighters in its ranks, according to the Congressional Research Service.

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