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Syrian airstrip
Google Earth photo by Jane’s

Google Earth photos reveal an airstrip in the northern Bekaa Valley for Hizbullah UAVs – unmanned aerial vehicles.

The airstrip consists of a single unpaved strip 670 m long and 20 m wide, the short length of the runway suggesting the facility is not intended for weapons smuggling, as it is too short for nearly all transport aircraft used by Syria or Iran. The plausible explanation is that the runway was built for Iranian-made UAVs, including the Ababil-3, employed over Syria by forces allied to the Syrian regime, and possibly the newer and larger Shahed-129.

Hizbullah sources have confirmed to IHS Jane’s that the organization is using UAVs to support operations against rebel forces in Syria, particularly over the mountainous region on Lebanon’s eastern border. Hizbullah has operated UAVs from Lebanese airspace since at least November 2004, when it dispatched one that it identified as a Mirsad-1 for a brief reconnaissance mission over northern Israel. It then attempted to fly at least three UAVs into Israel during the July-August 2006 war.

Hizbullah said it was responsible for the UAV that was shot down over southern Israel on 6 October 2012. It said it used an Iranian-made aircraft for the incursion. The Saudi Al-Watan newspaper claimed in March 2014 that Hizbullah had built a “military airport” for its UAVs in the Bekaa Valley. The site, which is guarded by a checkpoint and swing gate, resembles other Hizbullah facilities scattered around the Bekaa Valley.