The US has information that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has agreed to provide the terrorist organization Hezbollah with a Russian-made missile defense system, CNN reported Thursday, citing two people familiar with the information. .
According to the report, the Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group, which operates in Syria, was tasked with bringing the SA-22 surface-to-air missile system.
It is not clear if it has been delivered or how close it is to delivery. The system was originally provided by Russia for use by the Syrian government, the sources said.
One of the sources said that the US is monitoring the recent activity of the system, which is also known as Pantsir. Another source said the US assessment was based in part on intelligence obtained about discussions between Assad, Wagner, and Hezbollah on the delivery of the system.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Thursday that Wagner could supply the system to Hezbollah. Assad’s role has not been reported before.
Wagner and Hezbollah fighters have been operating in Syria for years, where they work with the Russian and Syrian armed forces to bolster the Assad regime against the Syrian opposition.
The possibility that Hezbollah will soon have a new air defense system comes amid concerns that it is considering opening a new front in Israel’s war against Hamas, on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.
It is unclear how much influence Russia had on the decision to give the system to Hezbollah, according to CNN. Since the death of Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin in August, the Kremlin has made several attempts to absorb Wagner’s mercenaries and the group’s assets. But in late September, the United States did not see a decisive shift in the Kremlin claiming full ownership of the fighters, CNN previously reported.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is scheduled to deliver a major speech on Friday that intelligence services will closely monitor for clues about the group’s intentions, an official said.