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Syria steps up Hezbollah armament
Growing unrest in Syria seems to have no impact on Damascus' efforts to supply Shiite group with weapons. Recent deliveries said to include Scud D, M600 ballistic missiles which put Israel, Jordan, parts of Turkey in range

Damascus has accelerated its supply of weapons to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, Ynet learned Saturday.

 

According to intelligence sources in the West and the Middle East, Syria's arms shipments to the Shiite organization have remained steady despite the unrest sweeping across the country, and they include advanced ballistic missiles.

 

 

Syria is said to be employing the help of experts from Iran and North Korea to press ahead with its development of sophisticated missiles at a secret site, believed to be built into Jabal Taqsis, a mountain near the opposition stronghold of Hama.

 

The missile program is allegedly run by the Scientific Studies and Research Centre in Damascus, an organization that is already on the United States' sanctions list.

 

With financial and political support from Iran, Damascus has also stepped up its military assistance to Hezbollah.

 

Sources close to Hezbollah said that the flow of weapons entering the Bekaa Valley from Syria had accelerated since March, when protests erupted against the Assad regime.

 

The scale of arms shipments is said to be so great that Hezbollah "doesn’t know where to put it all." Another source said that the shipments were simply contingency measures and that "We can send it all back when things calm down in Syria."

 

Latest weapon deliveries to the Lebanon-based militant group include, according to The Australian, advanced Scud D surface-to-surface missiles, which can carry a one-ton warhead and have a range of 700km – placing all of Israel, Jordan and a large part of Turkey within Hezbollah's range and therefore at risk.

 

Hezbollah has also reportedly been given M600 surface-to-surface missiles, which have a range of 250km and are based on Iranian technology.

 

According to The Times, M600 missiles are considered "strategic weapons" and "This is the first time that a terror organization has obtained a missile of this type."

 

Scud missiles are based on North Korean expertise.

 

"North Korea has transitioned from selling full missile systems to licensed production and assembly of missiles (in third countries)," said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies non-proliferation and disarmament program.

 

Israeli military intelligence also confirmed that Hezbollah has been engaged in a serious arms build-up.

 

"They moved some weapons before the uprisings in Syria, when the situation in Egypt was starting. But now that they see Syria as possibly unstable we are seeing the movement of a lot of weapons into Lebanon," an Israeli military intelligence source said.

 

"We have never had a quieter border with Lebanon but the threat from there has never been greater."

 

AFP contributed to this report

 

 

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