Israel says Iran seeking to build precision missiles in Lebanon

Lebanese movement Hezbollah has close ties to Iran (AFP Photo/-)

Jerusalem (AFP) - The Israeli army on Thursday accused Iran of collaborating with Lebanon's Hezbollah to assemble precision-guided missiles that could cause "massive" human casualties in Israel.

Tehran and the Shiite movement plan to convert "stupid rockets into precision-guided missiles", Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus told journalists in a conference call.

He said Iran had tried between 2013 and 2015 to transport precision-guided missiles to Hezbollah through war-torn Syria, where both back the Damascus regime.

But that strategy failed due to "Israeli operations", said the army, without elaborating.

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets.

Conricus said that in 2016, "Iran and Hezbollah changed their strategy... (to one of converting) existing rockets into precision-guided" projectiles.

He accused Tehran of planning to smuggle in the required components.

Conricus estimated that Hezbollah currently has some 130,000 rockets, an arsenal he said does not by itself amount to "accurate" weaponry, even if such projectiles constitute a "threat".

"However if they are able to produce a precision-guided arsenal... that will create a different and much more dangerous situation," he added.

Conricus accused Hezbollah of being "willing to strike civilians and strategic facilities... in order to create a massive amount of casualties and damage in Israel".

"Hezbollah does not yet have an industrial capability to manufacture precision guided missiles" but continues to work towards that goal, he added.

The allegations come after Hezbollah -- with which Israel has fought several wars -- accused the Jewish state of carrying out a drone attack Sunday on its Beirut stronghold.

Israel's military did not confirm whether it was behind the weekend attack, which saw one drone explode and another crash without detonating.

The Shiite movement's chief Hassan Nasrallah said Sunday that an armed drone had "hit a specific area," without elaborating.

According to the UK's Times newspaper, the drones fell near Iranian installations manufacturing a fuel used by precision missiles.

The Beirut attack came after Israel on Saturday launched strikes in neighbouring Syria, saying it was to prevent an Iranian attack on the Jewish state.

- 'Be warned' -

The Israeli army said that Mohammed Hussein-Zada Jejazi -- head of the Lebanese branch of the Quds Force -- was the mastermind of the alleged Iranian-Hezbollah missile plot.

The Quds Force is an elite organisation that runs the external operations of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

The Israeli army also released a photo that it said showed Jejazi.

It accused Lebanese citizen Fouad Shokr -- a high-ranking Hezbollah commander -- and two other Iranians, Majid Nua and Ali Asrar Nuruzi, of also being involved.

Israel's military said Majid Nua was an engineer with specialist knowledge of surface-to-surface missiles.

Netanyahu on Thursday said Israel was "determined to stop our enemies from possessing destructive arms."

"Today I tell them: 'dirbalak'," he said -- Arabic for "be careful".