Introduction

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Hezbollah (“Party of God”) is a Lebanese political party and militant group with close ties to Iran and Syria’s Assad regime. It is frequently identified as an Iranian proxy, as the Party supports Tehran’s regional ambitions in exchange for military, financial, and political support.1 Hezbollah is the world’s most heavily armed non-state actor, and has been described as “a militia trained like an army and equipped like a state.”2 This is especially true with regard to its missile and rocket forces, which Hezbollah has in vast quantities arrayed against Israel.

Hezbollah’s arsenal is comprised mostly of small, man-portable and unguided surface-to-surface artillery rockets. Although these devices lack precision, their sheer number make them effective weapons of terror. According to Israeli sources, Hezbollah held around 15,000 rockets and missiles on the eve of the 2006 Lebanon War, firing nearly 4,000 at Israel over the 34-day conflict. Hezbollah has since expanded its rocket arsenal, today estimated at 130,000.3

In May 2006, Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah explained that “The purpose of our rockets is to deter Israel from attacking Lebanese civilians…The enemy fears that every time he confronts us, whenever there are victims in our ranks among Lebanese civilians, this will lead to a counter-barrage of our rockets, which he fears.”4 Indiscriminate rocket fire, particularly from small, easily transportable launchers makes the suppression of fires with airpower more challenging. This forces Israel to rely more heavily on ground forces in a conflict. Lacking any air force of its own, Hezbollah prefers ground wars in its own territory to bombardment from the skies. As Human Rights Watch notes, however, these arguments do not justify civilian targeting and casualties under international law.5

The continued growth of Hezbollah’s missile and rocket forces is undesirable for several reasons. It may, for example, embolden the party to overstep Israeli red lines. Hezbollah’s push to acquire longer-ranged and precision-guided munitions could likewise spur Israel into preemptive action. Hezbollah’s weapons acquisition also raises the prospects for the proliferation of missile technology and know-how. According to Saudi and UAE officials, Hezbollah militants have worked with their Houthi forces in rocket development and launch divisions.6 Hezbollah forces in Syria and Iraq similarly operate with various Shiite militias. Growing relations among these groups presents risks for the dissemination of missile technology and knowledge.

Note: This is not a definitive list of Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal, and the profiles below rely solely on open-source material.

Land Attack Missiles and Rockets

Antiship Missiles (ASMs)

Antitank Missiles (ATMs)

According to Israeli tank commanders at the front of the 2006 War, Hezbollah’s anti-tank missiles damaged or destroyed Israeli vehicles on about 20% of their hits.60 The party successfully struck nearly 50 Israeli Merkava tanks during the conflict, penetrating the armor of 21. Hezbollah used ATGMs against buildings and Israeli troop bunkers as well. As Anthony Cordesman writes, “More [Israeli] infantry soldiers were killed by anti-tank weapons than in hand-to-hand combat.”61 While fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Hezbollah has effectively used ATMs to counter suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devises (SVBIED) launched by the extremist group.62

Antiair Missiles (AAMs)

Most of Hezbollah’s antiair missile systems offer only a relatively small area of protection. They nevertheless force Israeli aircraft to fly at higher altitudes, reducing Israel’s ability to accurately strike ground-based targets.80 Israeli policymakers and military officers have consistently reiterated their concerns about Hezbollah acquiring more sophisticated air defenses from Bashar al-Assad’s Syria.