Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group plans to supply advanced anti-aircraft systems to Hezbollah for deployment near Israel’s northern border, according to a new report.
Wagner is sending Hezbollah the Russian SA-22 Greyhound system, which uses surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns to intercept aircraft, two US officials told the newspaper. Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
Hezbollah, a US-backed terror group, has exchanged fire with Israeli forces across the country’s northern border as Israel wages a ground and air war against Hamas in the southern Gaza enclave.
New air defense systems could further escalate tensions in the North, and Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told the Journal that the report was “very concerning” if true, while saying he had no information to share on the subject.
The Russian embassy in DC and a spokeswoman for the US National Security Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment from DailyMail.com on Thursday evening.
In a file photo, fighters from the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah are training. Russia’s Wagner Group is reportedly planning to supply anti-aircraft systems to Hezbollah
Russian Pantsir-S1 units (NATO reporting name SA-22 Greyhound) are seen in Moscow during a parade in 2012. The system uses both surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns
One official told the newspaper it was not clear whether the anti-aircraft system had yet been delivered, but officials said they were monitoring talks between Wagner and Hezbollah and considered the issue to be of major concern.
Wagner Group, which launched a failed mutiny against Russian leader Vladimir Putin in June, is a state-funded private military company previously led by Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Prigozhin died in a plane crash in August, which U.S. intelligence said was likely a Russian-backed assassination, and his 25-year-old son Pavel Prigozhin has reportedly taken command of the organization.
The Greyhound anti-aircraft system, a NATO designation for what Russia calls the Pantsir-S1, could give Hezbollah advanced capabilities to fend off Israeli aircraft, cruise missiles and precision munitions.
The system consists of a missile launcher, a radar vehicle and a command post and is designed for point air defense against manned and unmanned aircraft, as well as against single missiles.
The delivery of the system could increase tensions on Israel’s northern border, where Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) forces have exchanged fire with Hezbollah.
Since the death of Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin (left) in August, the group has reportedly been led by his 25-year-old son Pavel Prigozhin (right)
The Greyhound anti-aircraft system (above), a NATO designation for what Russia calls the Pantsir-S1, could give Hezbollah advanced capabilities to repel Israeli aircraft
The system consists of a missile launcher (above), a radar vehicle and a command post, and is designed for point-air defense against aircraft, as well as against some missiles.
A file photo shows Hezbollah fighters with more primitive artillery. The group has repeatedly exchanged fire with Israel in recent weeks
Israel, which has launched a ground attack against Hamas in Gaza, hopes to prevent the opening of a second front in the war on its northern border.
The US has positioned the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier strike group in the eastern Mediterranean in an effort to deter Iran and Hezbollah from further aggression.
The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its strike group are also in the Eastern Mediterranean and are expected to pass through the Suez Canal this weekend on their way to the Middle East.
There was a major escalation along the Lebanon-Israel border on Thursday, with Hezbollah attacking Israeli positions with drones, mortar fire and suicide drones.
Hezbollah reportedly attacked 19 Israeli posts along the border, including one that was hit by two suicide drones.
The Israeli military said it retaliated with fighter jets and helicopter gunships against Hezbollah command centers, weapons depots and sites where the rockets were fired.
Two people were injured after rockets fired from Lebanon hit the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona, Israeli medical services said.
Israeli police inspect the scene of a rocket attack in the Israeli border town of Kiryat Shmona, Israel on Thursday
Israeli rescuers and firefighters check the rubble of burned vehicles after a rocket attack from southern Lebanon on the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel on Thursday
An Israeli artillery unit fires during a military exercise on the annexed Golan Heights near the border with Lebanon on Thursday. Since Hamas launched its attack on October 7, there have been exchanges along Lebanon’s southern border, mainly between Israel and Hamas ally Hezbollah.
Chadia Kaddouh stands Wednesday amid the rubble of her home destroyed by what she said was Israeli shelling in the southern city of Yater, Lebanon
Videos released by the fire department and circulating on social media show a street on fire, a destroyed car and a damaged building in the city that was largely evacuated at the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.
Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency also said four civilians were killed Thursday in an Israeli bombardment of the Saluki Valley region, a border area in southern Lebanon.
The latest deaths increase to 10 the number of civilian casualties on the Lebanese side of the border since tensions began to rise there following the October 7 Hamas attack in southern Israel that killed 1,400 Israelis.
Israel has responded with brutal airstrikes in Gaza, which have now killed more than 9,000 people, including many children, according to the enclave’s Hamas-led health authority. Hamas makes no distinction between civilians and fighters in the casualty figures.
The IDF continued to expand its ground war against Hamas in Gaza on Thursday, where around 240 hostages were brought into Gaza by the militant group from Israel.