Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Sunday morning issued a tacit threat that Israel would be forced to wreak destruction in Lebanon if the Hezbollah terror group goes through with its stated plan to attack the Jewish state in retaliation for an alleged Israeli drone strike last week on its Beirut stronghold.
In a televised speech Saturday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said the group’s response had been “decided.” It is about “establishing the rules of engagement and… the logic of protection for the country,” he said, adding that Israel “must pay a price” for the assault.
Nasrallah’s comments came in a speech to supporters Saturday night, a week after an alleged Israeli drone crashed on the roof of Hezbollah’s media office in southern Beirut, while another exploded and crashed nearby.
A separate strike around the same time on Iran-linked targets in Syria, which Israel took responsibility for, was said by Jerusalem to have thwarted an Iranian drone attack on Israel.
“Nasrallah is an Iranian puppet, who has taken upon himself the portfolio of the planned Iranian attack from Syria, which it is doubtful he knew about, and is peddling stories to the Lebanese people about defending Lebanon,” Katz said on Twitter, in a message posted in Arabic as well.
“If he continues down this path, he will be remembered as the destroyer of Lebanon,” he added.
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz also responded to the Hezbollah chief, saying in a statement Saturday night: “Nasrallah, have mercy on Lebanon and don’t cause the IDF to return it to the Stone Age. The State of Lebanon will be held responsible for any terror attack committed from its territory.”
Nasrallah has threatened that the response to last week’s events will come from Lebanon and could strike anywhere along the border, including Shebaa Farms, the site of a reprisal attack by Hezbollah in 2015 after several senior members of the group were killed in an airstrike attributed to Israel. Two Israeli soldiers were killed in the retaliatory strike and seven were injured.
Shebaa Farms, known in Hebrew as Mount Dov, and the adjacent Kfar Chouba hills are small patches of land captured by Israel from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967 and kept under Israel’s control since. Lebanon maintains that the land is its territory, though it was under Syrian control from the 1950s until it was captured in 1967 along with the Golan Heights.
The Israel Defense Forces believes Hezbollah intends to again attack Israeli soldiers or a military installation on the border, and not civilians.
In his speech, Nasrallah also categorically denied Israeli claims about his group having factories to produce precision-guided missiles in Lebanon.
Nasrallah said such accusations by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were a “lie” and a “hanger” to justify Israeli aggression against Lebanon.
“We do not have factories to produce precision-guided missiles in Lebanon,” Nasrallah said.
The IDF on Thursday revealed the identities of four senior Iranian and Hezbollah officials involved in a joint project to manufacture precision-guided missiles for the Lebanese terror group, in a dramatic move apparently intended as a tacit threat to the officers. The army warned that the Iranian-led project was “jeopardizing the stability of Lebanon.”
The Israeli military said it was taking the highly irregular step of releasing information about active members of a terrorist plot in order to push the Lebanese government and international community to take action to halt the project.
Netanyahu said exposing the details of the program was meant to send a signal to Israel’s enemies.
“We will not stand to the side and allow our enemies to acquire deadly weapons to use against us. This week, I already told our enemies to be careful with their actions. Now I am telling them: Dir balak,” Netanyahu said, using an Arabic phrase meaning, “Watch out.”
Israel reacted to the repeated Hezbollah threats, postponing on Saturday a massive exercise scheduled for next week and putting its forces on alert.