Outgoing air force chief says Israel no longer has freedom of action over Lebanon

Outgoing air force chief Amikam Norkin said Israel no longer had unfettered air superiority or freedom of action in Lebanese skies in an interview broadcast on Tuesday.

After a drone was nearly shot down by an anti-aircraft missile over Lebanon about a year ago, Israel realized that the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah had certain capabilities it was unaware of before, Norkin said.

Israeli officials realized the planes were under threat from Hezbollah missiles over Lebanon and decided to reduce the number of surveillance flights over its northern neighbor, harming Israel’s intelligence-gathering capabilities , Norkin told the Kan public broadcaster.

Iran-backed Hezbollah would retain some weapons, such as anti-aircraft missiles, in the event of a war with Israel to surprise Israeli forces, the report said.

The report appears to confirm a boast by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in February that Israeli drone flights over Lebanon have been “significantly curtailed” due to improved Hezbollah air defenses.

Nasrallah threatened to start shooting down drones in 2019, after two drones exploded in south Beirut in an attack blamed on Israel.

Asked if the air force was ready to attack Iran, amid criticism that the military was unprepared, Norkin balked and said Tehran had only returned to Iran. top of the military agenda only after the United States withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018.

“We need to showcase what we can do, not just in Iran, in 2022, 2023 and beyond. But we also have to hold on to what we can’t do, because the Air Force chief has a huge responsibility,” Norkin said. “And based on the answers they give, the decisions are made by the leaders. So I only give precise and reliable answers about what we can do.

Kan said a longer version of the interview will air on Thursday.

The Israeli Air Force routinely operates against Iran-linked targets in Syria, and sometimes over Lebanon, but faces new air challenges from Hezbollah and other adversaries.

The Israeli military fears that in the coming years its air superiority could be tested as Iranian-made and designed drones and cruise missiles flood the Middle East, posing a greater threat to Israel than the simple rockets that the terrorist groups in the region have possessed until now. now.

This photo released on Tuesday, October 12, 2021 by the Iranian military shows a missile fired during a military exercise at an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

Military officials said last month that Iran’s “drone terror” was a new and global problem, accusing Tehran of directly attacking military and civilian targets in the Middle East.

Nasrallah also said in February that Hezbollah was capable of turning thousands of rockets into precision-guided missiles and producing its own drones. The group has flown dozens of small drones in Israel in recent years, reportedly for surveillance purposes.

The Syrians have fired around 1,200 anti-aircraft missiles over the past decade, a rate that has accelerated over the years. A Syrian anti-aircraft missile shot down an Israeli F-16 plane in 2018. The pilot and navigator jumped from the plane and survived.

Syria operates an advanced Russian-made S-300 air defense system, which has yet to be used against Israeli forces, but poses a significant challenge as the system poses a threat to aircraft hundreds of miles around. him, according to a report last month. Israeli officials fear the system will be used more widely in Syria.

Late last month, the military officially received a massive new balloon equipped with an advanced missile and aircraft detection system from the Ministry of Defense.

The radar-based system, deployed in the north on an unspecified date, is part of a general effort by the Israeli Air Force to improve the country’s air defenses, particularly in the north, due to the proliferation of Iranian drones and cruise missiles.

Last month, Israeli officials said they believed two drones, believed to have been launched from Iran and intercepted by the US-led international coalition in Iraq last month, were targeting Israel.

A wave of drone and missile attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen hit an oil facility in Saudi Arabia last month, causing extensive damage.

Israel and its regional allies are working to develop a joint defense system to protect against the threat of Iranian drones and missiles, according to reports last month.

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