A Russian paramilitary group plans to provide an air-defense system to Hezbollah amid the escalated Israel-Hamas conflict, according to a report.
The Wagner Group is looking to send a Russian SA-22 system to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing U.S. intelligence officials. The system uses anti-aircraft missiles and air-defense guns to target aircraft.
Officials reportedly said the equipment has yet to be sent by Wagner, but U.S. intelligence is monitoring the scenario as they fear Hezbollah could aid Hamas and join the attack against Israel that escalated in October.
Adrienne Watson, spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council, told the WSJ that its report sparks a growing concern about war in the Middle East and Ukraine.
“The information that was reported by The Wall Street Journal is concerning,” Watson said. “We know that Russia has refused to condemn Hamas for its horrific terrorist attack on Israel and they recently hosted Hamas officials in Moscow. This comes as Russia is continuing to commit atrocities in Ukraine.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress on Tuesday that the U.S. government is concerned about a growing partnership between Russia and Iran as war continues in Ukraine and Israel.
“The conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East have clear links,” Blinken told the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Since we cut off Russia’s traditional means of supplying its military, it’s turned more and more to Iran for assistance. In return, Moscow has supplied Iran with increasingly advanced military technology, which poses a threat to Israel’s security.”
Iran is a significant backer of Hezbollah and Hamas. It has recently provided Russia with drones to aid in the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Wagner troops are aiding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his nation’s civil war.
Charles Lister, director of Syria and Countering Terrorism and Extremism programs at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told the WSJ that Russia is strengthening a “very close operational bond with Hezbollah over the past years in Syria.”
“It’s no secret that that relationship continues,” he said.