Hezbollah, Hizballah, Party of God,
Islamic Jihad or Organization of the Oppressed on
Earth, the radical Lebanese Shi'ite organization
that goes under a wide range of names was formed
in the Lebanon in 1982 as the natural offshoot of
the Iranian Islamic Revolution three years
To many observers it is nothing
more than an extension of Tehran's power westward
to the shores of the Mediterranean, while others
believe that Hezbollah also has a second agenda of
its own ... the eventual total political control
of the Lebanon.
force Hezbollah is a serious military force
with well trained, heavily armed and competently
led combat units. Estimates vary on its
strength, but the probable number of front line
fighters available before the current conflict
began was about 3,000.
To this must be
added up to 20,000 veterans and well-armed
militia. Its potential overall strength numbers
over 50,000 if party workers, relatively untrained
supporters and the potential assistance from the
well-armed gunmen of the Syrian-controlled PFLP-GC
(Popular Front of Liberation of Palestine -
General Command) and the militia of the SNSP
(Syrian National Socialist Party), operating in
the Marjeyoun area of Lebanon, are taken into
However, the most significant and
to the Israelis the most worrying element is the
presence of an unknown number of Iranian Islamic
Republican Guards. Thought to number anything
between 500 and 2,000, these tough soldiers are
responsible for the operation of most of
Hezbollah's most sophisticated weapons.
They fired the C802 anti-ship missile
which damaged an Israeli warship off the Lebanese
coast; Iranian military technicians are involved
in providing communications and SIGINT support, as
well as probably controlling the longer-range
Zelzal ballistic missiles, modern anti-tank and
air defense missile systems.
It is perhaps
also highly significant that this Hezbollah
missile onslaught on Israel is taking place only a
few short weeks since Syria and Iran signed a
military cooperation pact against the United
States, and by inference, Israel.
Hezbollah's arsenal Hezbollah's
impressive arsenal has taken some professional
observers and large parts of the news media by
surprise, though as yet many of its potentially
most lethal weapons have not been used and
probably won't be until a full-scale Israeli
invasion has been launched.
believed to have significant quantities of Russian
AT-5 Spandrel, AT-3 Sagger, a few AT-10 and a
number of US TOW anti-tank guided missiles. Huge
numbers of Russian RPG-7 and the Iranian-built
version, the Saghegh, with a lethal 80mm tandem
HEAT warhead, 82mm B-I0 and 107mm B-11 recoilless
anti-tank guns, supplement 60mm, 82mm and 120mm
mortars, vast numbers of anti-tank and
anti-personnel mines of Chinese, Russian, Italian
and Iranian origin.
of explosives and a proven ability to produce
highly effective improvised explosive devices
(IEDs - booby-traps and road side bombs) round out
the inventory. It also has SA-7 and perhaps some
SA-14-man portable surface-to-air missiles and
twin 23mm ZSU anti-aircraft guns in southern
Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley.
To this can
be added a few tanks, either captured from the
Lebanese Army or purchased from the old
Palestinian Liberation Army; numerous M113 and BTR
armored personnel carriers and some towed
Hezbollah has established a
large number of cleverly placed and well-defended
fire positions and bunkers along the border with
Israel and every road north is mined, sowed with
IEDs and covered by numerous possible ambushes.
The upper Bekaa Valley will only be taken at
considerable risk to the Israeli ground forces and
only the use of overwhelming military force will
provide any certainly of success.
Hezbollah's dangerous game
Hezbollah has quite callously placed a large
number of the missile launchers within built-up
areas with little or no consideration for the
civilian casualties that would be caused by any
Israeli retaliatory raids.
known accuracy of the Israel Defense Force's
(IDF's) targeting intelligence and the
precision-guided munitions, there will always be
mistakes in identification, and it is the nature
of war that occasionally munitions will go astray.
Hezbollah is undoubtedly playing a
dangerous game in the hopes of a single incident
with appalling civilian casualties turning world
opinion solidly against Israel.
threat Once again, therefore, attention
falls mainly on its missiles and artillery
rockets. Hezbollah could field some 12,000-13,000
107mm, range 11 kilometers, 122mm Katyusha-style
man-portable bombardment rockets with a range of
20km and an increasing number of the Fadjr
variants capable of striking up to 70km into
Israel, before the current conflict began.
The ranges of some of these systems have
been increased, though the accuracy is still
severely limited. The IDF claimed recently that
Hezbollah fired a Syrian-supplied 220mm artillery
rocket with a 90 kilogram warhead into Haifa which
killed eight civilians.
Of far greater
concern to Israel is the rumored presence of some
250 Zelzal-2 missiles in the upper Bekaa Valley.
These are road-mobile, solid-propellant systems
intended to be a cheap replacement for the aging
SCUD missile. The Zelzal uses a rudimentary
inertial guidance system and is believed to be
able to deliver a warhead of some 600kg (about
1,300 pounds) over ranges varying from 150km to
400km (about 95 miles to 250 miles) , thus putting
most of Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,
under grave threat.
scenario is one in which these long range missiles
are fitted with a chemical or biological warfare
payload, or even a "dirty" (ie radioactive)
warhead. Both of Hezbollah's main sponsors and
paymasters, Syria and Iran, are known to have such
warheads available and indeed some intelligence
reports have suggested that a small number of
Syrian chemical weapons are well hidden in bunkers
in the upper Bekaa Valley.
well supported Hezbollah still has a level
of fanatical support among many ordinary Lebanese
and particularly in South Beirut, southern Lebanon
and the Bekaa Valley. It is highly respected as
the only Islamic force that has achieved any
serious military success against Israel and is
indeed the only Arab force willing, or perhaps
capable, of joining the Palestinian Hamas campaign
against Israel launched from Gaza.
continues to operate openly throughout the border
regions with the willing assistance of the local
Lebanese population and the connivance of the
government in Beirut. Internationally, Hezbollah
has established cells in Europe, Africa, South
America, North America and elsewhere.
Hezbollah has its political leadership
well hidden in the tightly packed suburbs of south
Beirut, while its main military command is split
between bunkers near Ba'albek and safe havens in
Its training bases are mostly in
the Bekaa (Biqa)Valley and include; Ain Bourday
Base (South of Ba'albek) - guerrilla warfare
training. Nabi Sheet Base - guerrilla warfare
training. Ba'aIbek Homs Road Base - guerrilla
warfare training. Wadi Firsan Base (in the Hermel,
Bekaa Valley) - terrorist training, long-range
patrols, observation techniques, anti-tank and
anti-aircraft weapon techniques. Wadi al-Yammouneh
Base (edge of the Jbeil mountains) - terrorist
training. Nabeh El Assi Base (Hermel, Bekaa
Valley) - terrorist training.
undoubtedly find Hezbollah a tough and resilient
enemy, it will ultimately prove very difficult to
destroy militarily and virtually impossible to
AFI Research provides
expert information on the world's intelligence
services, armed forces and conflicts. Contact
(Copyright 2006 AFI