JERUSALEM - Elite Iranian troops helped Hezbollah fire a sophisticated radar-guided missile at an Israeli warship, Israeli officials said Saturday, describing an apparent surprise blow by militants who had been using only low-tech weapons.
Iran denied that it had any troops in Lebanon.
Israel initially believed that an aerial drone armed with explosives hit the warship, but it became clear that Hezbollah had used an Iranian-made C-802 missile to strike the vessel late Friday, an Israeli intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.
Iran's embassy in Beirut issued a statement late Saturday that called the Israeli allegations "meaningless."
It is "an attempt to escape reality with the aim of covering up (Israel's) inability to confront the Lebanese nation and resistance," the statement said.
One Israeli sailor was killed and three were missing after the attack. The ship was returning to its home port in Israel, the army said.
About 100 fighters from Iran's Revolutionary Guard helped import, equip and fire the missile at the Spear, a missile ship cruising off the coast of Lebanon, which is under an Israeli naval blockade, Israeli officials said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemned Israel's military offensive in Lebanon, saying "the Zionist regime behaves like Hitler," Iranian state television reported.
Hezbollah is widely believed to have been trained, funded and guided by the Revolutionary Guard since the militant group was founded during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
The Islamic republic's elite corps of more than 200,000 fighters is independent of the regular armed forces and directly controlled by Iran's supreme leader.
"We can confirm that it (the ship) was hit by an Iranian-made missile launched by Hezbollah. We see this as a very profound fingerprint of Iranian involvement in Hezbollah," Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan told The Associated Press.
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Well my friends it’s definitive and confirmed that Iran has attacked Israel by launching missiles at Israeli troops killing several. It’s also widely believed that they are funding and training these savage terrorists and pulling the strings behind the scene. They have provided rockets and other weapons which are now being fired on Israelis cities and Israelis troops on the ground. Israel has warned Syria to stay out of it or they will share the same fate as the terrorists and with the attack going unfettered, it is very unlikely that they will be attacked by Iran in a more overt manner. Appeasement is not the answer; it has been shown time and time again. Israel has tried peace; they tried to give the land back in the hopes that maybe the people of the PA would want to make a life for themselves and there children, I know it’s asking a lot of savages. It is very clear that Israel will once again have to occupy the Gaza Strip to ensure the safety of its own people and its own existence. Many are not even calling this a war, only a small scale battle or a police action, let’s get this clear now, this is a war and it’s the same war Israel has been fighting for over 50 yrs, a war for it’s very existence. We must stand by our allies and give them all the support they need. Iran must be held responsible for there actions and if Israel decides to hit Iran militarily we must be there right next to them fighting all the way. Iran is not as strong as its leaders want the world to believe, our Army is right next door and if they try anything funny we will blow the shit out of them!