Beirut-The appearance of American-made armored vehicles during a military parade organized by the so-called Hezbollah Sunday in the Syrian city of al-Qusayr has created confusion in Lebanon and fears that it would have a negative impact on U.S. aid to the Lebanese Army.
The U.S. is now studying a probability that the Hezbollah arms have been taken from the Lebanese Army, diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The sources said the U.S. is investigating the matter.
But on Tuesday, the Lebanese Army denied the U.S.-made armored personnel carriers were taken from the military. “The photos of vehicles circulated by media outlets were not taken from the army and do not belong to the military,” it said in a statement.
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau said the U.S. was working to find out more information about the issue.
Trudeau said if proved that the U.S. arms were in the hands of the party, the issue would be a source of grave concern.
Observers close to Hezbollah say the party seized the U.S.-made military equipment from the Israeli-backed militia of “South Lebanon Army” (SLA) following the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon in 2000.
Retired General Nassib Hoteit said the party had owned U.S.-made armored personnel carriers after it seized Israeli positions and other locations previously controlled by the militias of the SLA during the 1980’s.
However, Middle-East Center for Studies and Public Relations chairperson Hisham Jaber said the military equipment seized by militias of the SLA during the Israeli invasion and which belonged to the Lebanese Army were later returned to the military in 2000.
Other observers say the party had seized some American-made military equipment during its battle against ISIS in the countryside of east Homs and through weapons dealers. ISIS had taken control of the U.S. arms from the depots of the Iraqi Army.
The photos showing Hezbollah’s military parade of M118 armored personnel carriers similar to the weapons owned by the Lebanese army were circulated by media outlets on Monday.
Former Lebanese ambassador to Washington Riad Tabbara told Asharq Al-Awsat: “If there is evidence the U.S.-made weapons were transferred to Hezbollah, then the American reaction would be very big.”