ISRAELI concerns that Lebanon’s militant Shia Hezbollah has acquired Scud ballistic missiles have intensified with the release of updated satellite images on Google Earth showing what appears to be a training session at a secret military base in Syria, it emerged Saturday.
At least seven rockets resembling Scuds are visible in four locations in the sprawling military encampment tucked into a narrow valley 29km north-east of Damascus near the town of Adra.
One image shows two Scud-sized rockets in an open training area with at least 20 people standing near by. The Geoeye images, dated March 22, 2010, are publicly available to anyone with an internet connection and the Google Earth viewer.
The London Times revealed in May the existence of the Adra military base where Hezbollah militants allegedly receive training on Scud missiles. While the images do not confirm Hezbollah’s presence at the Adra base nor its acquisition of Scud missiles, the release of the satellite photographs to Google Earth is bound to raise questions at a time when the United States is attempting to revive peace talks between Syria and Israel.
The rockets are about 11m in length, the same size as the Scud B and C versions. The Scud D, the most advanced in the Syrian arsenal, is 13m long.
Three rockets are loaded on to trucks parked in a row. Another rocket is visible at the entrance of one of several concrete-lined tunnels sunk into the southern side of the valley.
In April, the US and Israel accused Syria of transferring Scud missiles to Hezbollah’s control, although it was unclear whether any of the rockets had been smuggled into Lebanon or remained in storage in Adra.
Hezbollah is believed to have acquired the Syrian M600 guided rocket which has a range of about 241km, bringing Tel Aviv and the most populated areas of Israel within range.