UPDATED: 07/15/06 – 16:00et
Elite Iranian troops helped Hezbollah fire a sophisticated radar-guided missile at an Israeli warship in a surprise blow by militants who had been using only low-tech weapons, Israeli officials said Saturday. Israel initially believed that an aerial drone armed with explosives hit the warship, but it became clear that Hezbollah had used an Iranian-made C-802 missile to strike the vessel late Friday, an Israeli intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.
A Hizbullah strike on an IDF warship off the Lebanese coast damaged the ship severely, the IDF confirmed to The Jerusalem Post late Friday.
Earlier reports disagreed regarding the extent of the damage, with the IDF initially reporting that the ship was largely unharmed.
According to security officials, the ship was struck by an unmanned aerial vehicle packed with explosives, a new tactic for Hizbullah.
The damaged ship was making its way to Israel early Saturday, Israel Radio reported.
Shortly before the strike, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said in a telephone call to Hizbullah media outlets that Israel’s ongoing operations in Lebanon were a campaign of revenge over its “defeat,” as he referred to the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.
Nasrallah was responding to growing criticism over the Hizbullah cross-border attack on Wednesday that spurred the Israeli response.
He also promised that IDF naval ships maintaining a sea blockade on Lebanese ports would be destroyed and called on the Lebanese people to join forces against Israel.
The comments came after Hizbullah threatened to strike Haifa and beyond with improved Katyusha rockets in response to the destruction of Hizbullah headquarters in southern Beirut and Nasrallah’s private residence.
In an urgent flash, the organization’s al-Manar TV station said the building housing Hizbullah’s leadership was destroyed. It did not elaborate, nor say whether there were any casualties.
The report on the destruction of Nasrallah’s home was announced by official Hizbullah media outlets.
It is generally known that Nasrallah, whose movements are treated with a high level of secrecy, moves from one place to another, particularly during the Israeli offensive.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s meeting with the “Group of Seven” security-related cabinet advisors ended a short time earlier on Friday evening. At the meeting, the prime minister approved a new list of targets for ongoing IDF operations in Lebanon.
On Friday afternoon, IDF warplanes renewed attacks on the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiya, targeting a radio station belonging to the Hizbullah terror organization, Hizbullah said.
The organization’s Al-Manar TV reported that Israeli warplanes fired a missile in the vicinity of the Al-Nour station in the Haret Hreik neighborhood south of Beirut but missed the facility and struck an apartment in a residential building instead. There was no immediate word on casualties, and the station remained on the air.
It was the second time Friday that IAF planes targeted residential neighborhoods in south Beirut, a stronghold of the Shi’ite Muslim Hizbullah’s leadership. Israeli planes earlier rained missiles on roads in the suburbs, knocking down an overpass and damaging another.
The IDF also continued its bombardment of southern Lebanon on Friday afternoon, bombing two bridges over the Hazharani river as well as a Hizbullah anti-aircraft missile base and a fuel depot in Talusia.
Earlier on Friday, IDF forces foiled an infiltration attempt by Hizbullah operatives near an IDF post close to Zar’it on the northern border on Friday.
Troops opened fire towards the infiltrators and clashes erupted in the area.
Meanwhile, IAF fighter-bombers blasted Beirut International Airport in the third attack on the nation’s sole international facility since the military offensive was launched against Lebanon three days ago.
Airport officials said one of the three runways was hit with two missiles and Lebanese eyewitnesses reported that a nearby residential building was struck in the raid. No casualties were reported.
About an hour before Friday’s raid, the five remaining Airbus jets belonging to the national carrier Middle East Airlines flew to Amman for safety reasons, officials said.
Early Friday, an Israeli plane also fired a missile at a fuel storage tank for the power station at Jiye on the Mediterranean coast in central Lebanon, just north of the port city of Sidon, witnesses said.
The attack started a huge fire in the area, about 20 miles south of the Lebanese capital, but the power station itself was not hit. There were no immediate reports of casualties.