U.S. delivers $9M arms package to Lebanese Army

U.S. Navy aviation ordnancemen place a Hellfire missile on an MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the "chargers" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26 for a live-fire training mission in 2011. Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott A. Raegen/Released.

(BEIRUT) — The United States delivered Friday an $8.6 million arms package of Hellfire missiles and artillery munitions to the Lebanese army, according to the U.S. embassy in Beirut.

The package, which includes 50 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and 560 artillery rounds including the “precision munitions”, will help the army “secure Lebanon’s borders against violent extremists,” the embassy said in a statement.

“Ambassador David Hale visited Beirut Airbase (Friday) morning to inspect America’s latest delivery of ‘Hellfire’ missiles and artillery munitions to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF),” the statement added.

Embassy officials said the weapons are meant to help Lebanon defend spillovers from neighboring Syria, which have left the Lebanese army on high alert in eastern Lebanon.

Border violence has sparked clashes and cross-border attacks between opposing groups in the Syrian conflict. The Lebanese army fought several days last year with insurgent groups, including the Islamic State and Nusra Front, when they attempted to attack the northeastern Lebanese town of Arsal.

The embassy noted that “munitions delivery demonstrates America’s sustained commitment to ensure that the Lebanese Armed Forces has the support it needs to be the sole defender of Lebanese territory and its borders, and is answerable to the state and to the Lebanese people through the state.”

According to the embassy, the U.S. has provided over $1.3 billion dollars in security assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces since 2004.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently announced the U.S. would double its military aid to the Lebanese Army this year.

“These funds will allow the Lebanese Armed Forces to buy munitions, improve close air support, sustain vehicles and aircraft, modernize airlift capacity, provide training to its soldiers, and add to the mobility of armored units,” he said.

Kerry made the announcement during the third ministerial meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon in New York on Sept. 30.

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