Hezbollah Resumes Air Defence Suppression Strikes: Kamikaze Drones Take Out Israel’s Iron Dome Batteries

The Lebanese militia and political party Hezbollah has resumed strikes on the Israeli Iron Dome air defence system near the Lebanese-Israeli border, with two single use ‘kamikaze’ drones reported on January 25 to have been employed to neutralise one such system near the Israeli settlement of Kfar Blum. The class of drone used was not confirmed, but Hezbollah’s leading armaments supplier Iran produces some of the world’s leading ‘kamikaze’ drone classes including the Shahed 136 extensively combat tested in Ukraine and the newer jet powered Shahed 238 designed specifically for air defence suppression operations. The militia announced that the strike was launched “in support of our steadfast Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.” Previously Hezbollah was reported on December 18 to have hit two Iron Dome surface to air missile batteries, which was thought to have been achieved with some kind of artillery. Attacking Iron Dome batteries serves the dual purposes of further stretching Israeli forces, which continue to face difficulties in their invasion of the Palestinian Gaza Strip, while also demonstrating the vulnerability of even the best defended positions in Israel to relatively limited strikes as a deterrent against possible escalation. 

Israeli and Hezbollah forces have been engaged in low level hostilities for over three months, with Israel recently having launched strikes on southern Lebanese population centres supporting Hezbollah using white phosphorus munitions, and on January 8 killing a Hezbollah field commander in a precision strike. Hezbollah forces meanwhile launched a rocket artillery strike on a key Israeli air surveillance facility on Mount Meron on December 6, and 20 days later made their first known deployment of a new class of anti-tank missile of unknown origin. The missile had similar capabilities to the American Javelin recently widely used in Ukraine, and is speculated to be the new Iranian Almas system. A day after the latest reported strikes on an Iron Dome system, Hezbollah units on January 26 launched strikes on nine Israeli Defence Force positions on the border, the nature of which remains unconfirmed. Hezbollah’s lack of air power has led it to rely heavily on a vast network of underground tunnels and bunkers, which can accommodate assets as large as transporter erector launcher vehicles for ballistic missiles and rocket artillery assets. This network was established in the early 2000s under North Korean instruction, and allowed the militia to inflict a military defeat on Israeli forces in a month long conflict in 2006 at a time when it was far less well armed or experienced than it is today.