Hezbollah can turn rockets into precision missiles, make drones -Nasrallah

BEIRUT, Feb 16 (Reuters) – The leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group said on Wednesday for the first time it had the capability in Lebanon to convert thousands of rockets into precision missiles and produce drones.

“We have been producing drones in Lebanon for a long time, and anyone who wants to buy them, places an order,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address to supporters.

He said Hezbollah was able to turn standard rockets into precision missiles with the cooperation of “experts from the Islamic Republic of Iran”. Such production has been spurred by the increased use of drone technology by archenemy Israel, he said.

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Hezbollah and Israel fought a month-long war in 2006 and occasionally exchanged gunfire in the years following Lebanon’s southern border.

There was no immediate Israeli response to Nasrallah’s statements. As the Israeli military outmanoeuvres Hezbollah guerrillas, Israel fears that in a future war they could use precision-guided missiles to knock out parts of its national infrastructure like ports or power plants.

Israel has said in the past that it shot down several Hezbollah drones that entered Israeli airspace. Hezbollah says its increased anti-drone capabilities have led to a drop in Israeli drone overflights.

Israel last week released the names of three Lebanese companies it accuses of supplying materials for Hezbollah’s precision-guided missile project, a move intended to generate international economic pressure on the Shia Muslim group.

“Hezbollah endangers Lebanese citizens and the Lebanese state,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement. Israel, he added, “would act resolutely in the face of the Iranian precision project operating from the heart of Lebanon”.

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Reporting by Timour Azhari, Laila Bassam and Mahmoud Mourad in Beirut and Dan Williams in Jerusalem Writing by Aidan Lewis Editing by Msark Heinrich

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