Compiled news by Ya Libnan, the tower.org and middle-east monitor
Speeches by Hezbollah’s leader this week were aimed at making clear to the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump that the Lebanese group could strike U.S. interests by hitting Israel, a source familiar with its thinking said on Friday. Trump and administration officials have used strong rhetoric against
Hezbollah’s political patron Iran and to support its main enemy Israel,
including putting Tehran “on notice” over charges it violated a nuclear
deal by test-firing a ballistic missile.
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun,
an ally of Hezbollah, defended the group this week, saying: “As long as
the Lebanese army lacks sufficient power to face Israel, we feel the
need for (Hezbollah’s) arsenal because it complements the army’s role”.
In his speech on Sunday, Nasrallah said: “We are not worried (about
Trump), but rather we are very optimistic because when there is an idiot
living in the White House, who boasts of his idiocy, it is the
beginning of relief for the weak of the world”. On Thursday he
said that his group, which played a major role in ending Israel’s
occupation of Lebanon, could strike its nuclear reactor at Dimona. The harsh words for Israel and Trump were aimed at drawing “red
lines” for the new U.S. administration, the source familiar with the
thinking of the Lebanese Shi’ite group said. “Until now, Hezbollah is
not worried about the arrival of Trump into the U.S. administration, but
rather, it called him an idiot this week and drew red lines in front of
any action that threatens Lebanon or Hezbollah’s presence in Syria,” the source said. Israel and the United States both regard Hezbollah, which dominates Lebanese
politics and maintains an armed militia that has had a significant part
in fighting for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, as a terrorist
organisation. “We can turn the threat (of their nuclear capability) into an
opportunity,” he said, signalling that Hezbollah could strike the Dimona
reactor and other Israeli atomic sites according to the source familiar
with Hezbollah thinking.
Lebanon’s Change Movement leader Elie Mahfoud warned against
Hezbollah becoming like Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
or like the Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF)
paramilitary organisation. Mahfoud said that “the issue of Hezbollah’s armament has always been a
contentious issue amongst the Lebanese people,” in comments that
reflect statements made by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri
earlier this week, who declared that the Shia jihadist movement
possessed weapons “illegally”. Mahfoud and Al-Hariri’s comments were in response to Hezbollah ally
and Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s remarks supporting the Iranian
proxy’s possession of arms.
Ibrahim al-Amin, chairman of the pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al-Akhbar,
wrote in an editorial on January 24 that “a vast supply of advanced,
state-of-the art weapons of various kinds, including weapons provided by
Iran” have flown into Hezbollah’s depots since the beginning of the
Syrian civil war. He also asserted that while Israel targeted
convoys transporting sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah, “dozens if not
hundreds of convoys managed to [get through and] bring the necessary
[weapons] to the resistance bases in Lebanon.” “Israel reads the map and realizes that Hizbullah’s weapons arsenal
has steadily grown, and is now several times larger than it was in 2006,
and that the kind of weapons that the enemy tried and is still trying
to prevent the resistance from acquiring – namely, what Israel calls
‘game-changing’ weapons – is available to it in great amounts,” al-Amin
Al-Amin observed that Hezbollah fired 4,300 rockets into Israel
during the 2006 war between the two. Now, Israel estimates that
Hezbollah would be able to fire 1,500 rockets at it each day, but “these
are the enemy’s estimates, and they are surely wrong,” he wrote.
A separate report on Hezbollah’s preparations for another confrontation with Israel appeared several days earlier in Al-Mustaqbal,
which is owned by Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’d Al-Hariri, aa rival of
Hezbollah. The paper confirmed that Hezbollah was operating in southern
Lebanon, in violation United Nations Security Council resolution 1701.
“Hizbullah has concealed forward positions on the international border
[between Lebanon and Israel], including tunnels it dug over 10 years
ago, especially in the Al-Labouna area, south of Al-Naqoura. [This area]
overlooks the Palestinian coast and the [Israeli] towns of Shlomi and
Nahariya,” Al-Mustaqbal noted. This seemed to corroborate earlier reports by the pro-Hezbollah Al-Safir newspaper,
which claimed in May that members of Hezbollah are “conducting
observations, preparing, and digging tunnels that cause the settlers and
enemy soldiers to lose sleep.” The report also claimed that Hezbollah
has shared its tunnel digging expertise with Hamas.
Earlier this week, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned that the terrorist group could use its advanced rocket arsenal to attack Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona.
Hezbollah’s growing military capabilities, especially due to
increased Iranian support, have been an Israeli concern for years.
Nasrallah admitted last
June that “Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it
eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic
of Iran,” and insisted that his group “will not be affected” by new
American sanctions. “As long as Iran has money, we have money… Just as
we receive the rockets that we use to threaten Israel, we are receiving
our money. No law will prevent us from receiving it,” he added.
Nasrallah’s acknowledgement of Iranian aid seems to confirm a public assurance
given to him in August 2015 by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad
Zarif that the nuclear deal Iran reached with global powers presented “a
historic opportunity” to confront Israel. Iran announced in June that
its defense spending would increase by 90 percent in the following year.
According to a July 2016 report
published by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Israeli
officials believe that any future war with Hezbollah has the potential
to cause “thousands of civilian deaths” in Israel. Hezbollah has, among
other things, threatened to attack ammonium tanks in Haifa, which could kill tens of thousands of people.
The think tank’s vice president for research, Jonathan Schanzer, explained that Hezbollah’s widely-reported tactic of hiding military assets in civilian areas would also lead to mass casualties. Reports
emerged two years ago that Hezbollah was offering reduced-price housing
to Shiite families who allowed the terrorist group to store rocket
launchers in their homes. An Israeli defense official told The New York Times in
May 2015 that the buildup of Hezbollah’s terror infrastructure in
southern Lebanese villages meant that “civilians are living in a
military compound” and that their lives were at risk. A few days later, a
newspaper linked to Hezbollah bolstered the Israeli assessment.
[Photo: wochit news / YouTube ]
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said in a statement on Thursday: “If Nasrallah dares fire on the Israel’s home front or on its national infrastructure, then all of Lebanon will be hit.” The source familiar with Hezbollah thinking said that it has been
Nasrallah’s policy since the 2006 war with Israel to reveal elements of
the group’s military capabilities as part of a policy of deterrence
against attack by the Jewish state.