Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah says terror group has bolstered its capabilities since Second Lebanon War, and can now destroy any specific target within ‘occupied Palestine’. Nasrallah asserted that Israel’s goal in the Second Lebanon War was to “crush the resistance” – and not to drive Hezbollah away from southern Lebanon’s Litani River or to liberate soldiers captured by the organization, as the Jewish state claimed. Hezbollah may not want a new war with Israel but an order to attack would come from Tehran in the event of a strike on Iran, a senior military official in Israel’s northern command told AFP. And if the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad collapses, the resulting unrest could see Al-Qaeda type groups create chaos on the Syrian Golan Heights, he said in an interview conducted on Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The era in which we are afraid and they are not is over,” he said. “The time has come to declare that we are here to stay, and they must cease to exist.”
Any military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would likely spark a deadly response from its ally Hezbollah, whose leader Hassan Nasrallah warned on Friday that its missiles could strike anywhere inside the Jewish state. But senior military officials do not believe Nasrallah wants another war with Israel and would only attack as a direct result of orders from Tehran.
Nasrallah said that Hezbollah is “capable of striking very specific targets not only in Tel Aviv but everywhere in occupied Palestine.”
Nasrallah asserted that Israel’s goal in the Second Lebanon War was to “crush the resistance” – and not to drive Hezbollah away from southern Lebanon’s Litani River or to liberate soldiers captured by the organization, as the Jewish state claimed.
“The war has failed to achieve its goal,” he said.
“The Israeli enemy has tried to make our lives hell,” he added. “The question is, why wasn’t it content with the killings in the battlefield or with bombing military bases? Why did it expand its aggression to destroy homes and schools? It committed war crimes.”
“The biggest spending of Iran in 30 years has been on the nuclear programme, and Hezbollah is the second,” the Israeli official told AFP, adding that Tehran’s aim was to create “Iranian footprints near the border with Israel.” “If something would happen in Iran, it’s a tool that they can use in all kinds of scenarios,” said Israeli military official.
“They (Iran) have so many high-ranking officials in Lebanon. I don’t think this is a decision of Nasrallah — he will get orders. That’s why he was created,” said the official.
“If you ask Nasrallah today, he would say ‘no’ (to a new war with Israel) but I don’t think that’s his call,” he said. “Nasrallah understood the power of Israel and he is still licking his wounds.”
He said other scenarios which could spark a new conflict between Israel and Hezbollah include an attack on Israelis abroad or the transfer to Hezbollah of chemical weapons from Syria, which is in the throes of a brutal crackdown on anti-regime protests.
Last month, Major General Yair Golan, head of the Israeli military’s northern command, said the ongoing bloodshed in Syria raised fears that Damascus’ weapons stockpiles, which included the “world’s largest stockpile of chemical weapons,” could end up in Hezbollah’s hands.
But the military official said Israel also feared the collapse of Assad’s regime could see the Syrian Golan Heights fall to groups like Al-Qaeda.
Nasrallah thanks Iran
In 2006, Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war that killed about 1,200 people in Lebanon and 160 in Israel. Hezbollah fired nearly 4,000 rockets at Israel during the war and is believed to have upgraded its munitions in recent years. Nasrallah’s speech focused on the rehabilitation of the Dahiya district in Beirut, an area that was severely damaged in the war.
He mentioned the funds that were allocated by Iran for the renovation of the district.
“Without these funds, we wouldn’t have been able to complete the restoration so quickly,” he said.
The Israeli military official also said should Assad fall, it was likely to deal a very heavy blow to Hezbollah, which stood to lose a key ally in terms of weapons and logistical support, he said. “Hezbollah is very worried about what is going on in Syria because all their logistics are there,” he said.
“If the Assad regime collapses, they will be alone in this region and will have no border with a friend that can help and support it. They are very worried about it,” he said. “That’s why Hezbollah is working very hard to support the Assad regime.”
Hezbollah’s main fear was losing the support of Assad, whose minority Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
“The top advisers from Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are helping Assad to slaughter his own people because they know that if Assad falls, this axis won’t work any more because most of the (Syrian) people are Sunni,” he said.
But such an outcome could also benefit Israel, he said. “Without Syria, Hezbollah will be much more careful in its acts,” he said.
“The most important mission today is to win decisively in any kind of war in Lebanon. If you win, you win — everybody sees it.”
He said Israel’s biggest challenge in any new conflict would be Hezbollah’s positioning of weapons in the heart of civilian areas in around 100 Lebanese towns and villages along the border.
“The people that live there are human shields,” he said.
“Every Shiite village has become such a compound. The great challenge will be to deal with all these compounds.”
The Jewish state fought a devastating war against Hezbollah in 2006 that cost the lives of 1,200 people in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.