It was Hezbollah’s first-ever military parade on foreign soil. And they showed off.
Images of the parade, which was held last week in the Syrian city of Qusayr, showed a wide array of the militant group’s artillery: Soviet-made T-72 tanks, Russian Kornet anti-tank missiles armored personnel carriers, rapid response motorcycles and KS-12A anti-aircraft weapons.
But the most significant and worrisome vehicles on display were the American-made M113 armored personnel carriers (APCs), the type provided to the Lebanese army (LAF) by the United States, prompting many analysts to speculate that the group may have received them from the LAF.
Hezbollah is one of the most prominent terror organizations in the world, and while the group has become bogged down fighting in Syria for President Bashar Assad, they have gained immeasurable fighting experience, as well as new advanced weaponry.
The group continues to provide financial and military support from their patron Iran, according to some estimates to the tune of at least $200 million a year. But, this past summer the LAF received 50 armored vehicles, 40 artillery pieces and 50 grenade launchers from the United States.
The arms were part of an aid package to bolster the Middle Eastern country from the threats posed by militant groups, and both the LAF and the US State Department have denied that the M113s seen in the parade were taken from them, adding that they are looking into how Hezbollah acquired the vehicles.
And while the mystery surrounding the procurement of these tanks remain, the parade itself has raised eyebrows.
The images of the parade is a first for group, which has in the past never permitted these types of pictures to be shared, trying to keep their weaponry a high guarded secret.
However, Hezbollah, is said to be in its worst financial shape in decades and has lost at least four prominent figures since January 2015, killed either fighting Syrian insurgents or in Israeli attacks.
Nonetheless, Hezbollah continues to significantly build up its power, both in terms of its ability to mobilize fighters, but also its arsenal; some estimates say the group has 100,000 short-range rockets and several thousand more missiles that can reach central Israel, including Tel Aviv.
According to some Israeli analysts, the next war with Hezbollah might see 1,500-2,000 rockets shot into Israel per day, compared to the 150-180 per day during the Second Lebanon war 10 years ago.
According to Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem as published in the Lebanese daily Al Safir, Hezbollah “now has a heavily armed and well-trained army and the resistance does not need to rely on guerilla tactics. We have acquired well-developed expertise to protect Lebanon and the interest of Lebanon.”
“This military parade is a clear and visible message to everyone and there is no need for clarification or interpretation of the meaning of that message,” Qassem added.
Hezbollah denied Qassem’s statements, releasing a statement reading that “Hezbollah’s press bureau wishes to clarify that what was published Wednesday in the Al-Safir newspaper did not appear in the text delivered by the deputy secretary-general of Hezbollah,” the group said in a statement.
Since the last war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, the border has seen relative quiet. Nonetheless, the IDF sees this border as the most explosive.
While the IDF and the LAF have relative good relations in order to prevent confrontations, a senior IDF officer told The next war with Hezbollah “will be a real war,” no longer against a militant group, but a full fledged and powerful army, with varying levels of fighting capabilities that include both guerrilla and conventional tactics.