A new, disquieting phase

The exchange of blows between Israel and Hezbollah and, possibly, the entire conflict between Israel and its bitter opponents has entered a new, deadly, disquieting phase. Armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) have been deployed by Hezbollah for the first time and to deadly effect:

JERUSALEM (AP) — An unmanned Hezbollah aircraft rigged with explosives slammed into an Israeli warship late Friday, causing heavy damage to the vessel, military officials said.

The attack indicated that Hezbollah has added a new weapon to the arsenal of rockets and mortars it has used against Israeli troops.

The army said the warship suffered severe damage and several hours after the attack, was still on fire as it headed back to Israel. There was no word on casualties, though the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera reported the Israeli military was searching for four missing sailors after the ship was hit by a rocket.

The military officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media. The army spokesman’s office would say only that the cause of the attack was still under investigation.

Hezbollah has managed to fly unmanned spy drones over northern Israel at least twice in recent years.

This isn’t the first time that such devices have been used in Israel’s generations-long conflict: Israel is considered by some to be the world’s experts in such things. But this appears to be the first that they’ve been used by Hezbollah.

Bill Roggio of Counterterrorism Blog has details. More at Defense-Tech.

Many have questioned Hezbollah’s ability to develop such a weapon or mount such an attack unaided and suggest the direct participation of Iran.

I don’t want to trivialize the attack—I mourn all loss of life whether Israeli, Palestinian, or Lebanese. But the revelation of this capability at what is in all likelihood an early stage of whatever’s going on between Israel and Hezbollah will probably work to Israel’s benefit.

How large are Hezbollah’s inventories of UAV’s? Are they still valuable enough to them that they’ll only be deployed against military targets?

Regardless, the conflict has entered a new, disquieting phase.

UPDATE: Or, the ship may have been damaged by a missile supplied and operated by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. I don’t know which report I find of more concern.

Previous posts on this subject:

Israeli-Hezbollah conflict continues
The War of Jenkins Ear
Escalation in Middle East

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