Israeli military officials said they uncovered evidence of a factory used for creating missiles in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
The New York Times reported Tuesday on the alleged missile factory, which Israeli officials believe was part of a partnered effort between Hezbollah and the government of Iran. Israeli officials have raised previous concerns that Hezbollah, as a proxy to the Iranian government, is pursuing missile production capabilities.
The factory was an important component to Hezbollah’s weapons production efforts, according to Israeli officials.
In an anonymous statement provided to the New York Times, an Israeli official said the factory was operational but lacked some major components.
Hezbollah has not offered a response to the most recent Israeli allegations, though Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, offered a prior statement Saturday, denying the group has factories for “precision-guided missiles.”
It is not immediately clear how the missile production facility was identified, but Israeli officials said Hezbollah later began moving the production equipment away from the alleged factory to “civilian locations in Beirut,” out of concerns of Israeli strikes on the factory.
The announcement follows a reported attempt by Hezbollah to destroy an Israeli armored vehicle with an anti-tank missile. Israel returned with artillery fire on positions in Southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah said the attack on the Israeli armored vehicle came in response to an Israeli airstrike in Damascus, Syria, that killed two of its members. Israel said the airstrike was conducted in an effort to destroy Iranian drones that were intent on attacking Israeli targets.
“Iranian Quds operatives flew to the Damascus International Airport with drones and explosives, and continued on to Iranian bases in Syria to prepare for an attack on Israel,” a statement from the Israeli Defense Force said.
The statement also identified Hezbollah in connection with the Iranian plot in Syria.
Though Israel reported no casualties from the anti-tank missile attack, Hezbollah said the missile destroyed the vehicle and killed or wounded its passengers.
“It is known that we have a clear obligation, and I’ll come back and remind the whole world of this obligation: if [Israel] kills our brothers in Syria then we will respond to these deaths from Lebanon,” Nasrallah responded, according to the Israeli statement.
Nasrallah recently said the attack sent a message that further Israeli attacks would put all of their border personnel and settlements at risk of attack. He said Hezbollah has begun a “new phase” in its conflict with Israel, where there would be no “red lines” for attacks.
It is not immediately clear if more attacks will continue. Israel and Hezbollah’s last formal conflict lasted for about a month in 2006.