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U.S. alarmed by potential Russian supply of P-800 Oniks cruise missiles to Houthi rebels

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U.S. alarmed by potential Russian supply of P-800 Oniks cruise missiles to Houthi rebels

Story from Uji A. ILIYASU

Senior U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin may supply P-800 “Oniks” anti-ship cruise missiles to the Houthi armed group in Yemen.

Signs indicating that Russia will provide the P-800 “Oniks”anti-ship missiles to the Houthi group are already apparent, according to senior U.S. security officials cited by the Middle East Eye portal.

Washington warns that the delivery of Russian-made anti-ship cruise missiles to Houthi fighters poses a more serious threat to commercial vessels navigating the Red Sea.

In addition to commercial ships, Western warships, including U.S. aircraft carriers, would also be threatened by the new Houthi missiles.

Former CIA senior analyst William Usher told Newsweek that if war erupts between Hezbollah and Israel, Russia would likely strengthen its ties with the Iranian-backed armed group in southern Lebanon.

This closer cooperation could see efforts to further enhance Hezbollah fighters’ combat capabilities, who are reportedly already equipped with P-800 “Oniks” anti-ship cruise missile systems.

Following Hezbollah, the Houthi group also seems poised to be equipped with the Russian-made P-800 “Oniks” anti-ship missiles.

According to regional analysts quoted by international media, the closer cooperation between Russia and Iran also involves the Iran-supported Houthi armed group in Yemen.

In response to the “flood” of modern and dangerous U.S. weapons to Ukraine, President Putin warned that Moscow would similarly supply arms to countries and groups “hostile” to Washington.

Recently, the U.S. increased its military aid to Ukraine by providing short-range “ATACMS” missiles, which Kyiv has used to target Russian positions in Crimea.

Late last year, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah warned the U.S. that the armed group had “something” for U.S. warships deployed to the Middle East to “protect” Israel.

While Nasrallah did not specify what he meant, sources in Lebanon indicated that Hezbollah now has significantly improved anti-ship missile capabilities.

“We have prepared something for the warships that threaten us,” said Nasrallah.

READ ALSO: Houthis launch missiles at 2 commercial ships, American warship in Red Sea

Since 2006, Hezbollah’s anti-ship capabilities have grown exponentially, shortly after successfully striking an Israeli Navy Sa’ar-class corvette, the “INS Hanit,” enforcing a blockade off the Lebanese coast.

Sources reveal that Hezbollah is now equipped with Russian-made P-800 Oniks (export variant Yakhont) missiles, which are not only supersonic at Mach 2.5 but also capable of striking “enemy” ships from 300km away.

Hezbollah is believed to have acquired these Russian-made anti-ship missiles from Syria, which were supplied by Russia during the Syrian civil war about 10 years ago.

Moscow stated that it transferred the anti-ship cruise missiles to Damascus in 2010.

The P-800 Oniks anti-ship missiles fly at low altitude (sea skimming) of only 10 to 15 meters above the surface to evade radar detection.

The missile was first developed in 1993 and has several upgraded variants, making it more dangerous and difficult to intercept.

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