Israeli Intel: Iranian Troops Helped Hezbollah Attack Warship
A missile fired by Hezbollah, not an unmanned drone laden with explosives, damaged an Israeli warship off Lebanon, the army said Saturday. Elite Iranian troops helped fire the missile, a senior Israeli intelligence official said.
One sailor was killed and three were missing.
The intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information, said about 100 Iranian soldiers are in Lebanon and helped fire the Iranian-made, radar-guided C-102 at the ship late Friday.
The official added that the troops involved in firing the missile are from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, an elite corps of more than 200,000 fighters that is independent of the regular armed forces and controlled directly by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Initial information indicated the guerrillas had used a drone for the first time to attack Israeli forces. But the army's investigation showed that Hezbollah had fired an Iranian-made missile at the vessel from the shores of Lebanon, said Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan.
"We can confirm that it was hit by an Iranian-made missile launched by Hezbollah. We see this as very profound fingerprint of Iranian involvement in Hezbollah," Nehushtan said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Another Hezbollah missile also hit and sank a nearby merchant ship at around the same time, Nehushtan said. He said that ship apparently was Egyptian, but had no other information. READ MORE
Nehushtan said the body of one of the four Israeli soldiers missing in the attack was found aboard the damaged warship. Other Israeli military officials said two bodies had been found.
The Israeli vessel, a Saar 5-class missile ship named the "Spear," was heading to its home port in Israel on Saturday, the army said.
A military official said the ship is one of the most technologically advanced in the Israeli fleet, boasting an array of Harpoon and Gabriel missiles, along with a system for electronically jamming attacking missiles and other threats.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said the missile detection and deflection system was not operating, apparently because the sailors did not anticipate such an attack.
The Israeli intelligence official said Hezbollah also has Iranian-made drones, and warned that they are more accurate than missiles.
Israel launched an offensive after Hezbollah guerrillas crossed the Israel-Lebanon border on Wednesday and captured two Israeli soldiers. Israel has bombarded Lebanon's airport and main roads in the most intensive offensive against the country in 24 years, while Hezbollah has launched hundreds of rockets into Israel.
The intense fighting has sent shock waves through a region already traumatized by Israel's battle against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.