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Lebanon's Hezbollah: What weapons does it have?

3 min

Lebanon's Hezbollah is one of the most heavily armed non-state groups in the world, and a formidable actor in the Iran-backed "Axis of Resistance" alliance which opposes Israel and U.S. influence in the Middle East.

Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah © Mena Today 

Lebanon's Hezbollah is one of the most heavily armed non-state groups in the world, and a formidable actor in the Iran-backed "Axis of Resistance" alliance which opposes Israel and U.S. influence in the Middle East.

Hezbollah has demonstrated its arsenal - or part of it - during eight months of hostilities with Israel which have rumbled on in parallel to the Gaza war.

The conflict has fuelled concern about the potential for further escalation between the regional enemies, who last fought a major war in 2006.

Here is a snapshot of Hezbollah's arsenal:

AN OVERVIEW

Hezbollah's military strength is underpinned by a vast rocket arsenal. It is estimated to have upwards of 150,000 missiles and rockets of various types and ranges, according to the World Factbook of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. 

Hezbollah says it has rockets that can hit all areas of Israel. Many of the rockets are unguided, but it also has precision missiles, drones and anti-tank, anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles.

Hezbollah's main supporter and weapons supplier is Iran. Experts say Tehran sends arms to the group by land via Iraq and Syria, both Middle East countries where Iran has close ties and influence. Many of the Shi'ite Muslim group's weapons are Iranian, Russian or Chinese models. 

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in 2021 the group has 100,000 fighters. The CIA World Factbook says it was estimated in 2022 to have up to 45,000 fighters, split between roughly 20,000 full-time and 25,000 reserve personnel.

ANTI-TANK MISSILES

Hezbollah used guided anti-tank missiles extensively in the 2006 war. It has deployed guided rockets again in the latest round of fighting. Its anti-tank missiles include the Russian-made Kornet.

Hezbollah has also used an Iranian-made guided missile known as "al-Mas" for the first time during these hostilities, according to a report by the pro-Iran Arabic broadcaster al-Mayadeen.

A report by Israel's Alma Research and Education Center published in April described the al-Mas as an anti-tank weapon that can hit targets beyond the line of sight following an arched trajectory, enabling it to strike from above.

The missile is part of a family of weapons made by Iran through reverse engineering based on the Israeli Spike missile family, the report said. It said the missile was a "flagship product" of Iran's defence industry in Hezbollah's possession.

ANTI-AIRCRAFT MISSILES

Hezbollah said on Oct. 29 it had shot down an Israeli drone over south Lebanon with a surface-to-air missile, the first time it had announced using a type of weapon which it was long believed to have in its arsenal. Hezbollah has since used such missiles on several occasions during the hostilities, downing Israeli Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 drones.

DRONES

Hezbollah has launched explosive one-way drones at Israel numerous times. Hezbollah has used drones in some of its more complicated attacks, launching some aimed at keeping Israeli air defences busy while explosives-laden drones were flown at targets.

More recently, the group has announced attacks using drones that drop bombs and return to Lebanon, instead of just flying at their targets. Hezbollah has not said what the payload of those drones are.

Hezbollah's drones include what it says are the locally-assembled Ayoub and Mersad models. Experts say they are cheap and relatively easy to produce.

Israel accused Iran last year of building an airstrip in south Lebanon that could be used to launch attacks. A non-Israeli source with knowledge of the site said it could accommodate large, potentially weaponised drones.

LAND-ATTACK ROCKETS AND MISSILES

Unguided rockets comprised the bulk of Hezbollah's missile arsenal in the last war with Israel in 2006, when the group fired about 4,000 of them into Israel - mostly Russian-made Katyusha-style missiles with a range of up to 30 km (19 miles).

Nasrallah has said the biggest change in Hezbollah's arsenal since 2006 is the expansion of its precision guidance systems.

In 2022, he said Hezbollah had the ability within Lebanon to retrofit thousands of rockets with guidance systems to make them precision missiles.

Hezbollah has Iranian models, such as Raad (Arabic for Thunder), Fajr (Dawn) and Zilzal (Earthquake) rockets, which have a more powerful payload and longer range than Katyushas.

Rockets fired by Hezbollah at Israel during the Gaza conflict since October have included Katyushas and Burkan (volcano) missiles with an explosive payload of 300-500 kg.

Hinting at the damage it could do, Nasrallah in 2016 made a veiled threat that Hezbollah could hit ammonia storage tanks in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa, saying the result would be "like a nuclear bomb".

ANTI-SHIP MISSILES

Hezbollah first proved it had anti-ship missiles in 2006, when it hit an Israeli warship 16 km (10 miles) off the coast, killing four Israeli personnel and damaging the vessel.    

Since the 2006 war, Hezbollah has acquired the Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missile with a range of 300 km (186 miles), sources familiar with its arsenal say. Hezbollah has never confirmed possessing that weapon.

Hezbollah has also broadcast videos that it says show more of the same type of anti-ship missile used in 2006.

Reporting by Maya Gebeily, Timour Azhari and Tom Perry

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