Hours after Hezbollah terror chief Hassan Nasrallah warned that his terror group would not be “deterred” and that any Israeli action against it would not go unpunished, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps said Israel “learned a lesson” from Wednesday’s attack in which two IDF soldiers were killed.
Speaking in Beirut at a ceremony for the “martyrs of Quneitra” — the 12 Hezbollah and Iranian operatives, including a general, who were killed in an airstrike attributed to Israel on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on January 18 — General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted by the IRNA news agency as saying that Iran’s and Hezbollah’s responses to any future Israeli attack would be “the same.”
Wednesday’s attack, in which Major Yochai Kalangel and Staff Sergeant Dor Chaim Nini were killed when anti-tank missiles fired by a Hezbollah unit hit their convoy, was largely seen as a response to the alleged Israeli air raid the previous week near Quneitra.
Both Iran and its proxy Hezbollah effectively outlined a new policy on Friday, according to a report on Channel 2, in which any Israeli operation in Syria would be met with a powerful response. Both indicated “new rules of engagement” on Friday during respective remarks in Beirut.
According to the Channel 2 report, Iran was seeking to solidify its hold on southern Syria and open a new front using Hezbollah members operating under an Iranian umbrella.
Earlier Friday, Nasrallah gave his first speech since Wednesday’s deadly attack, warning that Hezbollah did not seek war but did not fear it, and boasting of Lebanese, Iranian and Syrian unity.
“We don’t fear war [against Israel] and we don’t hesitate in facing it if it is imposed on us and we will be victorious, God willing,” he said.
“Everyone was saying that Hezbollah would not respond because of the Iranian [nuclear] talks, or [the war in] Syria. Now they know the truth,” Nasrallah told thousands of supporters in south Beirut Friday, addressing the public rally through a video link from a secret location.
“From now on, if any member of Hezbollah is assassinated, then we will blame it on Israel and reserve the right to respond to it whenever and however we choose,” he threatened Friday. “The resistance no longer cares about rules of engagement and we do not recognize them in confronting the enemy.”
Acknowledging that an Israeli retaliation to Wednesday’s attack could have been devastating, Nasrallah said the terror group took that consideration into account, and mocked Israel for failing to prevent the attack despite its high level of alert.
“We took no hesitation in making the decision that Israel should be punished for its crime in Qunietra. We prepared ourselves for the worst case scenario when we took that decision. The resistance carried out its Shebaa operation in broad daylight in spite of the fact that Israel was at its highest level of preparation,” he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday held Iran ultimately responsible for Wednesday’s attack, and said Tehran was seeking to open multiple fronts in its “sustained” war against Israel. He slammed the international community for preparing a potential deal with Iran that would leave it with the capacity to build nuclear weapons.
The January 18 strike reportedly targeted the leaders of a substantial new Hezbollah terror hierarchy, based in the Syrian Golan, that was set to attempt kidnappings, rocket attacks and other assaults on military and civilian targets in northern Israel. The unit involved Hezbollah commander Jihad Mughniyeh and IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, a Channel 2 report last week said.
The terror group congratulated itself widely on Thursday, touting Wednesday’s response as a masterful display of military prowess and intelligence acuity while collecting plaudits from abroad.
“Israel must understand that Hezbollah is wise but not frightened and always ready for war,” Nasrallah threatened on Friday, adding that the terror group had “the right to confront the enemy at any time, place, or manner.”
Despite the grandstanding, the escalation is largely seen as having subsided. Hezbollah conveyed a message of deescalation to Israel following the attack through the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Israel Radio Thursday morning.
Nasrallah called the strike in Syria that killed 12 last week a “clear assassination.”
In his address, Nasrallah heaped praise on the “resistance martyrs of the Quneitra attack,” which was also the name of the Hezbollah unit that attacked the IDF convoy Wednesday.
“Our brothers in Quneitra were killed in a clear assassination, in a decision taken by Israel,” Nasrallah charged, adding that “the mix of Lebanese and Iranian blood on Syrian soil in Quneitra represent the unity of our battle and fate.”
Nasrallah said the “martyrs represent a number of generations of the resistance,” in reference to Mughniyeh, the Hezbollah commander killed in the strike, and the son of senior terror mastermind Imad Mughniyeh, who died in a car blast in 2008.