Israel Official: Iran Helping Hezbollah
Jul. 15, 2006
JERUSALEM (AP) _ A missile fired by Hezbollah, not an unmanned drone laden with explosives, damaged an Israeli warship off Lebanon, the army said Saturday. Iranian troops helped fire the missile, a senior 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 attack alarmed Israel because 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.
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.
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. With Israeli officials pointing fingers at Hezbollah's close allies, Syria and Iran, the crisis could soon spread.