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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

Hezbollah leader, defying Israel, says group has 'precision missiles'

Statement came hours after Hassan Nasrallah said Hezbollah would downscale presence but not leave Syria

Supporters of Lebanon's Shiite movement Hezbollah gather near a giant poster of Hassan Nasrallah during a ceremony to mark Ashura on September 20, 2018 in Beirut. AFP Photo
Supporters of Lebanon's Shiite movement Hezbollah gather near a giant poster of Hassan Nasrallah during a ceremony to mark Ashura on September 20, 2018 in Beirut. AFP Photo

Lebanon's Hezbollah said on Thursday the group had acquired "precision missiles" despite extensive efforts by neighbour and foe Israel to prevent the Shiite movement developing this capability.

"It has been done. The resistance now owns precision missiles" as part of its weaponry, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address during the key Shiite commemoration of Ashura.

Israel this month acknowledged carrying out more than 200 strikes over the past 18 months in war-torn Syria, where Hezbollah fights alongside Israel's arch-foe and Shiite powerhouse Iran in support of the Damascus regime.

Israel has said it is working to stop both Iran and Hezbollah from acquiring sophisticated arms.

"Attempts in Syria to block the way towards this (missile) capability" have failed, Nasrallah said.

"If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, it will face a fate that it never would have expected."

Israel has fought several conflicts against Hezbollah, the last in 2006.

The Israeli military believes Hezbollah has between 100,000 and 120,000 short-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred longer-range missiles.

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Late on Monday, an Israeli raid hit Syria's northwestern province of Latakia to prevent what the Jewish state said were deliveries of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah.

Syrian air defences downed a Russian military plane by mistake, killing all 15 on board.

Russia also backs Syria's government militarily and it was the worst case of friendly fire between the two allies since Moscow intervened in the conflict in 2015.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was "determined to stop Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and the attempts by Iran, which calls for the destruction of Israel, to transfer to Hezbollah lethal weaponry (to be used) against Israel".

Nasrallah accused the Israelis of trying to kill him "day and night". He has lived in a secret location for decades and rarely appears in public.