Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz warned Tuesday that Israel was prepared to completely eviscerate Lebanon in response to any cross-border missile attack by Hezbollah.
Katz (Likud) was responding to a fiery speech by the Shiite group’s head Hassan Nasrallah earlier in the day in which the extremist leader claimed that his organization’s rockets can hit anywhere in Israel and threatened to target the country’s sea ports and main airport in the next conflict.
“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 official Facebook page (Hebrew).
“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.”
In his Tuesday speech, Nasrallah said Hezbollah “is fully ready in southern Lebanon.”
Addressing via video thousands of Lebanese Shiites commemorating the Ashura holiday in southern Beirut, Naharnet reported, he said the group’s activities fighting in support of the Syrian regime had not affected its battle readiness.
Hezbollah’s campaign in Syria has cost the group over 1,000 fighters, according to some reports.
“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,” said Nasrallah.
“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,” said Nasrallah, the Daily Star reported.
“You should close all of your airports and your ports because there is no place extending on the land of occupied Palestine that the resistance’s rockets cannot reach.”
Israel knows that fighting Hezbollah “will be very costly because we are more determined, stronger, more experienced … and we are capable of achieving such accomplishments,” he continued.
Nasrallah’s televised address came a day after he made a rare public appearance in the Lebanese capital’s southern suburbs, addressing thousands of his supporters ahead of the Shiite Ashura commemorations.
The head of the Shiite group had not appeared in public since July when he attended a rally to show support for the Gaza Strip.
In September, an Israeli TV report said the Israeli army is “making plans and training” for “a very violent war” against Hezbollah in south Lebanon, without specifying when this war might break out.
The report, for which the army gave Israel’s Channel 2 access to several of its positions along the border with Lebanon, featured an IDF brigade commander warning that such a conflict “will be a whole different story” from the Israel-Hamas conflict in which over 2,000 Gazans (half of them gunmen according to Israel) and 72 Israelis were killed. “We will have to use considerable force” to quickly prevail over the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, “to act more decisively, more drastically,” said Colonel Dan Goldfus, commander of the 769th Hiram Infantry Brigade.
The report said Hezbollah has an estimated 100,000 rockets — 10 times as many as were in the Hamas arsenal — and that its 5,000 long-range missiles, located in Beirut and other areas deep inside Lebanon, are capable of carrying large warheads (of up to 1 ton and more), with precision guidance systems, covering all of Israel. Other IDF sources have indicated Hezbollah may have some 150,000 rockets.
Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system would not be able to cope with that kind of challenge, and thus the IDF would have to “maneuver fast” and act forcefully to prevail decisively in the conflict, Goldfus said.
Lazar Berman, Adiv Sterman and AFP contributed to this report.