Amid Hezbollah threats, Israel said to warn Iran against arming group
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Amid Hezbollah threats, Israel said to warn Iran against arming group

Jerusalem reportedly using friendly nations to tell Tehran it would 'not tolerate' construction of weapons factories in southern Lebanon

Zolfaghar missiles, right, are displayed during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP/Stringer)
Zolfaghar missiles, right, are displayed during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP/Stringer)

Israel has reportedly sent messages to Iran via Europe warning it against continuing to expand Hezbollah’s warfighting capabilities against Israel in southern Lebanon.

According to Hebrew-language reports, Israel has been speaking to friendly nations who also have diplomatic relations with Tehran, asking them to convey to the Islamic Republic that Jerusalem “will not tolerate” the continued arming of the southern Lebanese terror group and Iranian proxy.

The reports cited a European diplomatic source.

Israel specifically addressed Iranian efforts to construct underground weapons-production factories in south Lebanon that will enable Hezbollah to produce advanced rockets and other systems without the need to smuggle them from Iran through Syria.

The Israeli Air Force has repeatedly targeted such shipments, leading Iran and Hezbollah to examine other options for its continued upgrading of Hezbollah’s arsenal.

The new effort to arm Hezbollah was first reported by a Kuwaiti newspaper in March.

The saber-rattling from Hezbollah has spiked in recent weeks. On Friday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned that “hundreds of thousands” of Arab and Muslim fighters from as far afield as Afghanistan would be ready to strike back if Israel were to attack Lebanon or Syria.

Screen capture of Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah during an interview with Iran's state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, February 20, 2017. (screen capture: IRANIANTVCHANNEL/YouTube)
Screen capture of Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah during an interview with Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, February 20, 2017. (screen capture: IRANIANTVCHANNEL/YouTube)

“The Israeli enemy should know that if it launches an attack on Syria or Lebanon, it’s unknown whether the fighting will stay just between Lebanon and Israel, or Syria and Israel,” Hassan Nasrallah said.

“I’m not saying countries would intervene directly — but it would open the door for hundreds of thousands of fighters from all around the Arab and Islamic world to participate in this fight — from Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan,” he said.

Nasrallah made the remarks in a speech broadcast on television to mark Jerusalem (Quds) Day, an annual show of solidarity with the Palestinians marked by marches and speeches that rail against Israel and the West.

The commemoration was first launched by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late revolutionary leader of Iran — a main sponsor of Hezbollah and staunch rival of Israel.

Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon, and others from Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, are battling alongside regime forces in Syria to defend the government of President Bashar Assad.

Hezbollah parading its military equipment in Qusayr, Syria, November 2016. (Twitter)
Hezbollah parading its military equipment in Qusayr, Syria, November 2016. (Twitter)

Any future confrontation, Nasrallah said, would be “very costly for Israel.”

The comments came a day after Israel accused Hezbollah in the United Nations of expanding observation posts to conduct reconnaissance missions under cover of a purported environmental NGO.

Israel’s military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Hertzl Halevi on Thursday released film and photographs of the Hezbollah positions at the border fence.

“Hezbollah is using an environmental organization as a cover for activities along the border with Israel,” Halevi said at the Herzliya Conference.

In a letter to the UN Security Council, Israel’s envoy to the UN, Danny Danon, pointed to an incident in April, in which a patrol of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was denied access to an observation post flying the flag of the NGO “Green Without Borders,” by a group of locals.

Hezbollah’s purported use of such facilities under cover of the NGO is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, passed at the end of the Second Lebanon War in August 2006.

An installation of the Lebanese agricultural NGO 'Green without Borders' that the IDF says serves as an observation outpost for Hezbollah on the Israeli-Lebanese border, publicized on June 22, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
An installation of the Lebanese agricultural NGO ‘Green without Borders’ that the IDF says serves as an observation outpost for Hezbollah on the Israeli-Lebanese border, publicized on June 22, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Danon denounced the “dangerous provocation” and called on the council to demand the Lebanese government dismantle the Hezbollah outposts, as required by the resolution.

The UN rejected the claim on Friday with UNIFIL reporting that Green Without Borders members have planted trees in the area, but it “has not observed any unauthorized armed persons at the locations or found any basis to report a violation of resolution 1701,” said UN spokeswoman Eri Kaneko.

Last week, the head of Israel’s air force said it would have “unimaginable” military power at hand in any future conflict with Hezbollah.

“What the air force was able to do quantitatively in the [2006] Lebanon war over the course of 34 days we can do today in 48-60 hours,” Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said on Wednesday.

“This is potential power unimaginable in its scope, much different to what we have seen in the past and far greater than people estimate.”

Iran held major anti-Israel rallies across the country Friday, with protesters chanting “Death to Israel” and declaring that destroying the Jewish state is “the Muslim world’s top priority.”

Iranians participating in Quds Day rallies also called for unity among pro-Palestinian groups against the “child-murdering” Israeli government, according to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.

An Iranian man rides his bicycle on top of a reproduction of an Israeli flag painted on the street during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)
An Iranian man rides his bicycle on top of a reproduction of an Israeli flag painted on the street during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

Marchers in Tehran headed from various points of the city to the Friday prayer ceremony at Tehran University. Similar demonstrations were held in other cities and towns in Iran.

Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard used the demonstration in the capital’s Valiasr Square to showcase three surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, including the Zolfaghar — the type that Iran used this week to target the Islamic State group in Syria.

The Guard said it fired six such missiles on Sunday at IS targets in the city of Deir el-Zour, more than 600 kilometers (370 miles) away. The Guard said the airstrike was in retaliation for an IS attack earlier in June on Iran’s parliament and a shrine in Tehran that killed 18 people and wounded more than 50.

Another missile on display at the Tehran rally was the Ghadr, with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) that can reach both Israel and US bases in the region.

Iran’s ballistic missile program has been the subject of persistent concern in Washington and the target of repeated US sanctions.

Iran claimed its missile strike on Sunday killed 360 Islamic State fighters. Israeli sources, by contrast, said the strike was a “flop,” that most of the six or seven missiles missed their targets, and that three of them fell to earth in Iraq and didn’t even reach Syria.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in remarks carried by the official IRNA news agency, said Israel supports “terrorists in the region.”

A Shahab-3 long range missile, left, and Zolfaghar missiles, right, are displayed during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)
A Shahab-3 long range missile, left, and Zolfaghar missiles, right, are displayed during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017.
(AFP Photo/Stringer)

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani, in a speech to Tehran demonstrators, called Israel the “mother of terrorism” and said that in the “20th century, there was no event more ominous than establishing the Zionist regime.”

The rally also inaugurated a huge digital countdown display at Tehran’s Palestine Square, showing that Israel will allegedly cease to exist in 8,411 days from the day of the rally.

In 2015, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei predicted that after 25 years — by 2040 — there will no longer be a State of Israel

 

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