Israel: July 17, 2001

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Iran has deployed a Revolutionary Guards unit armed with mobile 240mm Fagr-5 rockets in southern Lebanon. Israel reports detecting about 20 Iranian posts in southern Lebanon, some of them as close as 200 meters to the border. The troops arrived in the last month in an airlift from Iran to Syrian air bases, indicating that the Syrian government has approved the deployment. The deployment was confirmed by an Iranian defector named Mehrabi, who gave Israeli intelligence a detailed picture of the deployment of these units and said they were operational. Israeli intelligence feels that these rockets, which can reach 50 miles and hit cities as far south as Haifa, are intended as a deterrent force. If Israel were to launch a major attack on the Palestinians, it would pay a heavy price in civilian casualties as the rockets rain down on Israeli population centers. (There is no indication that these rockets have anything other than conventional warheads.) Should such a bombardment start, Israel would presumably use airpower and artillery to find and destroy the mobile launchers, but the truck-mounted systems could hide in barns or caves and the conflict could become a running battle lasting weeks. On the other hand, if Israel does nothing about these rockets, it can only expect Iran to continue deploying such "deterrent units" in the future.--Stephen V Cole

 

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