Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday boasted that his rockets can reach Israel’s nuclear reactor in the southern city of Dimona, and said he would turn Israel’s reported nuclear arsenal against it. A senior Israeli minister threatened Lebanese infrastructures in response.
Nasrallah, who had previously threatened to target an ammonia tank in Haifa, claimed credit for an Israeli court decision to shut down that facility this week and said he would do the same with the nuclear reactor.
“I call upon Israel not only to evacuate the Ammonia tank from Haifa, but also to dismantle Dimona nuclear facility,” Nasrallah said at a rally, warning that he would target Dimona too. “The Israeli nuclear weapon that represents a threat to the entire region, we will turn it into a threat to Israel,” he claimed.
In response to Nasrallah’s statement, Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz threatened in a statement to target “all of Lebanon,” including infrastructures there, in retaliation for any attack on Israeli population centers or infrastructures. He also called for “debilitating sanctions” on Iran over its support for its “proxy and stooge” Nasrallah.
“If Nasrallah dares to fire at the Israel homefront or at its national infrastructure, all of Lebanon will be hit,” said Katz.
International agencies believe Israel has over 100 nuclear weapons. Israel has neither confirmed or denied the existence of its nuclear arsenal, maintaining a policy of “nuclear ambiguity.”
Earlier this week, the Haifa Court for Local Affairs ordered the company that owns the ammonia storage facility in Haifa to empty the tank. The ruling came after a report published in January found that tens of thousands of local residents would be killed if the chemicals in the storage tank were to be released in the air from an accident or an event like a missile strike on the facility by Hezbollah. The company is now appealing the court ruling.
Nasrallah said that no matter what the Israelis did, they could not escape the threat Hezbollah posed.
“The Israelis hurried to empty out its ammonia tank after our threat to target it, but we’ll reach it wherever they take it to,” he said at the rally, which was held to mark the 9th anniversary of the death of Hezbollah’s former military leader Imad Mughniyeh.
Terror chief Mughniyeh was killed by a car bomb in February 2008.
Hezbollah blames Israel, which has denied any involvement in Mughniyeh’s killing, although it had long sought him.
During the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Shiite group fired thousands of rockets at Israel despite a massive Israeli effort to target its launchers and rocket stockpiles.
In the month-long war, 165 Israelis, including 44 civilians, were killed. Over 1,100 Lebanese, including both Hezbollah fighters and civilians, also died in the war and large swaths of southern Lebanon and the capital Beirut were badly damaged in the fighting.
Nasrallah boasted that Israel was surprised then and would be surprised again in any future conflict. “In 2006 you had intelligence of our ammunition but you were astonished with what you saw after figuring out that you didn’t have enough information. You will be surprised with what we are (now) hiding which could change the course of any war,” he said.
The Hezbollah leader also said that there had not been a fresh conflict between Israel and Hezbollah since then because Israel was afraid of the consequences. “Our guarantee is our strength and steadfastness which are preventing the Israelis from any adventure,” he said.
During his speech, Nasrallah also accused Arab countries of “liquidizing the Palestinian cause,” as they are instead “quick to normalize ties with the Israeli enemy,” in an apparent reference to the behind-the-scenes relations Israel is said to have developed with a number of countries in the region.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.