Following drone incursion, Gantz renews threat against Hezbollah

Speaking at a memorial for soldier killed in Lebanon, defense minister suggests a ‘bill with high interest’ would land on Nasrallah’s doorstep if he takes further action

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at the Academic and Technology College of Tel-Hai, northern Israel, on February 23, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at the Academic and Technology College of Tel-Hai, northern Israel, on February 23, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz threatened Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group on Wednesday, saying attempts to create an equation of response with Israel would result in a bill with “high interest.”

“I suggest to [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah not to make accounts and equations with Israel. Because the bill may be sent to Nasrallah, the Lebanese state and its citizens… and it will be served with interest, high interest,” Gantz said during a memorial for a paratrooper commander killed in Lebanon in 1999.

His remarks — made from the Tel-Hai College near the Lebanon border — come after the Iran-backed terror group claimed responsibility for launching a small drone, apparently for reconnaissance, that entered Israel from Lebanon on Friday, and seemingly flummoxed Israeli attempts to intercept it.

Apparently in response, two Israeli fighter jets flew from the Mediterranean Sea over the Lebanese capital before departing several minutes later.

Lebanese social media users claimed the Israeli jets flew over Beirut’s Dahiya neighborhood, a Hezbollah stronghold, deliberately setting off sonic booms.

There was no immediate acknowledgment or response from the terror group, but Nasrallah has previously vowed to “clean up the Lebanese airspace from Israeli violations.”

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks via a video link during a ceremony to mark the second anniversary of the assassination of the head of Iran’s Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani, in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, on January 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Lebanon and Israel are technically in a state of war, and the heavily guarded border is commonly penetrated by drones from both sides.

Lebanon regularly complains about Israeli surveillance drones invading its airspace, but the IDF maintains that such incursions are necessary to track the activities of Hezbollah, which the Lebanese government is meant to keep in check.

“Even today, just like during the period when the late Eitan [Belhassan] fell, the same terrorist organization, Hezbollah, continues to intensify,” Gantz said.

“It is Lebanon and its citizens who are paying… the price for Hezbollah’s terrorist policies. Israel continues and will continue to take every necessary action to ensure peace and security of its citizens,” he said, adding, “We have solutions for the challenges and plans for the threats.”

Last week, Nasrallah claimed his Iran-backed group had begun manufacturing its own drones. “We have been producing drones in Lebanon for a long time, and whoever wants to buy them — submit an order,” he said.

People walk by a replica drone in a war museum operated by Hezbollah in Mlita Village, southern Lebanon, on February 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

During his address on Wednesday, Gantz also warned that if a controversial IDF draft bill does not pass two more Knesset readings, “there will be severe damage to our ability to counter the security challenges we face, and in the long run, Israel’s security superiority will be harmed.”

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