Hezbollah has acquired powerful Russian anti-ship missiles, which pose a significant threat to U.S. warships in the region, according to sources familiar with the group’s arsenal. The acquisition of these missiles underscores the grave risks associated with any regional conflict.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently issued a veiled threat against U.S. vessels deployed in the region, warning that his group had something in store for them. Two sources in Lebanon, knowledgeable about Hezbollah’s arsenal, revealed that Nasrallah was referring to the group’s enhanced anti-ship missile capabilities, including the Russian-made Yakhont missile with a range of 300 km.
Reports have indicated for years that Hezbollah obtained Yakhont missiles in Syria, where the group deployed to assist President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war. However, Hezbollah has never officially confirmed possessing these weapons. The group’s media office did not respond to requests for comment.
The U.S. has deployed naval forces to the Mediterranean to deter Iran and prevent the conflict between Hamas and Israel from spreading. Hezbollah perceives these warships as a direct threat due to their ability to target the group and its allies. Nasrallah stated that the U.S. warships do not scare Hezbollah, as they have prepared for any potential threat.
The White House emphasized that Hezbollah should not exploit the Hamas-Israel war, and the U.S. does not want to see the conflict expand into Lebanon. One source noted that Hezbollah’s anti-ship capabilities have significantly developed since 2006 when the group demonstrated its ability to strike an Israeli warship in the Mediterranean.
U.S. officials acknowledged Hezbollah’s impressive array of weapons, including anti-ship missiles, and stated that they take these capabilities seriously. The U.S. naval deployment in the region includes defenses against incoming missiles, although specific details were not provided.
Hezbollah’s Yakhont missiles approach their targets at low altitude to avoid detection. These missiles can be launched from the air, ground, or submarines. The group’s acquisition of these weapons would indicate a major escalation in the conflict.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that there is no confirmation of Hezbollah acquiring Yakhont missiles, and the Russian defense ministry did not respond to requests for comment. The Syrian information ministry also did not provide immediate responses.
Nasrallah’s recent speech marked one of his strongest warnings to the United States. He indirectly referred to past attacks on U.S. Marines headquarters and the U.S. embassy, for which Hezbollah has been held responsible. Nasrallah emphasized that those who defeated the U.S. in Lebanon in the 1980s are still alive.
Lebanese political analyst Nasser Qandil explained how Hezbollah could use the Yakhont missiles against U.S. warships. He described the missile as the group’s most important prize from its involvement in the Syrian war.
Hezbollah keeps its arsenal and acquisition methods secretive. Nasrallah previously mentioned how the group obtained Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missiles via Syria. In an interview, he stated that the Syrian defense ministry purchased the weapons from Russia for Syrian use, and Hezbollah later acquired them to defend Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s use of the Yakhont missile in the 2006 war was extensive. In 2010, Moscow announced a deal to send anti-ship cruise missiles, including a version of the Yakhont, to Damascus.
Additional reporting by Idrees Ali, Phil Stewart, John Davison, Maya Gebeily, and Guy Faulconbridge. Written by Tom Perry and John Davison. Editing by Claudia Parsons.
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