Hezbollah warns Israel against Lebanon war, as France inks $3bn Beirut arms deal
Addressing a mass gathering of Lebanese Shiites celebrating the Islamic holy day of Asura in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Nasrallah warned Israel of the consequences of a war with Lebanon.
“Israel’s threats of another war on Lebanon do not stem from its power because it has lost hope and is concerned… The resistance is a real threat to Israel,” Nasrallah said, Lebanon's Daily Star reported.
“Israelis are saying in the media that they would have to close down the Ben Gurion Airport and the Haifa port and yes, that’s true."
Nasrallah confirmed the Israeli reports, saying “there is no place extending on the land of occupied Palestine that the resistance’s rockets cannot reach.”
Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, a member of the hawkish Likud Party, blasted Nasrallah’s speech in an angry response.
“In order to avoid any doubt on the matter, Nasrallah the cowardly braggart should know this: that option does not exist for us,” Katz wrote on his Facebook page.
“If such a scenario does materialize, we will raze Lebanon to the ground! We will return it to the Stone Age and bury [Nasrallah] under the rocks."
#Nasrallah “The Israelis imagine that the latest events are weakening and diverting the resistance from being ready (to fight the enemy).”
— Sabir Abu Maryam (@SabirAbuMaryam) November 5, 2014
The ratcheting up of rhetoric between the two historic enemies comes as Hezbollah has its hands full dealing with the Sunni-led Islamic State, also known as ISIS, or ISIL, making incursions across Iraq and Syria. Last month, Hezbollah sent thousands of fighters to Syria to help Syrian President Bashar Assad, also struggling to tamp down a years-long civil war, to beat back advances made by IS.
At the same time, both Shia and Sunni Muslims, increasingly frustrated over failed efforts to give the Palestinians their own state as Jewish settlement construction continues, are now vexed by Israel’s decision to close the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem – Islam’s third most venerated site – following the breakout of violence between Jews and Muslims.
Since the 34-day 2006 Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah, which ended in a tenuous UN-brokered ceasefire, both sides of have been sizing each other up for another possible conflict. The incursion of IS in the region, together with internal political problems in Syria, Lebanon’s powerful ally and Israel’s nemesis, have only heightened anxieties.
In September, Israel’s Channel 2 featured an interview with an IDF brigade commander who predicted that any hypothetical future war with Hezbollah “will be a whole different story” from Israel’s latest military offensive in the Gaza Strip, which left 2,100 Gazans dead and 66 on the Israeli side.
Amnesty International accused Israel of war crimes during the 50-day war this summer, saying IDF forces displayed "callous indifference" in its effort to destroy militant positions and their tunnels that lead into Israel.
Israel defended its actions, arguing that many more militants were killed than estimated, while accusing the Gazans of hiding their military assets among the civilian population.
“We will have to use considerable force” to effectively deal with Hezbollah, said Colonel Dan Goldfus, commander of the 769th Hiram Infantry Brigade.
According to the Israeli report, Hezbollah has an estimated 100,000 precision-guided rockets that could – unlike the antiquated types lobbed into Israeli territory by Hamas - overwhelm Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
French enter fray with military deal to Lebanon
Meanwhile, amid this climate of regional tensions, France and Saudi Arabia put the final touches on a deal that would see French defense contractors provide Lebanon with $3 billion worth of military aid for which Saudi Arabia would pick up the bill, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
"I welcome the signing of the contract to assist the Lebanese army," AP reported him as saying in a statement. "This agreement, financed by a Saudi donation, will strengthen the Lebanese army, which is the guarantor of the unity and stability of Lebanon."
The deal will help Lebanese military, which is often overshadowed by Hezbollah in terms of fighting potential, to "fulfill its mission to defend territory and in the fight against terrorism during a time at which Lebanon is threatened,” Fabius said.