Hezbollah chief says Israel ‘scared,’ not ready for war

Nasrallah claims deployment of US anti-missile system shows Israelis don’t trust their own military capabilities; calls for supporters to give donations amid Western sanctions

Supporters of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group listen to a speech of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, via a video link, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, March 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Supporters of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group listen to a speech of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, via a video link, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, March 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Friday that Israel is “scared” of another war with his Lebanese terror group, and claimed the Israeli military is unprepared for any such conflict.

In a televised speech, Nasrallah pointed to the US military’s deployment this week of the advanced THAAD missile defense system in Israel for joint exercises as proof of what he said was Israeli insecurity over the country’s ability to counter Hezbollah rocket fire in a future conflict.

“Israel is scared of a new war,” Nasrallah told supporters.

“Every day you hear that Israel is not prepared for war in one way or another and this week you saw Israel began using the American THAAD system. They don’t even trust the missile defense systems they developed themselves,” he added, according to Israel’s Channel 13.

Hezbollah is believed to possess between 100,000 and 150,000 rockets and Israel has warned it is working to develop precision missiles with Iranian assistance. While the IDF and the Defense Ministry have invested significant resources in aerial defense, army officers have said that these anti-missile systems will not be able to stop all projectiles.

The US army unloads a THAAD missile defense system in Israel, March 2019. (US Army Europe)

Nasrallah’s remarks echoed other recent comments he has made on the Israeli military’s preparedness for war and come just months after Israel wrapped up an operation to find and destroy cross border attack tunnels from Lebanon it says were to be used by Hezbollah for an opening salvo in a future war.

The Hezbollah leader later dismissed the effectiveness of the anti-tunnel campaign and said the Iranian-backed organization’s plans to invade the Galilee remain intact.

In his speech Friday, Nasrallah also called for donations from Hezbollah supporters because he said the group is coming under financial pressure as a result of Western sanctions.

Nasrallah’s appeal came after Britain announced on February 25 that it would seek to make membership of the Shiite organization or inviting support for it a crime.

In this photo from November 3, 2014, Jawad Nasrallah, the second eldest son of of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, films his father addressing his supporters, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

It also follows the United States ramping up sanctions against the group, with its latest raft of measures in November targeting Nasrallah’s son Jawad, among other individuals.

“The sanctions and terror lists are a form of warfare against the resistance and we must deal with them as such,” Nasrallah said.

“I announce today that we are in need of the support of our popular base,” Nasrallah added. “It is the responsibility of the Lebanese resistance, its popular base, its milieu,” to confront these measures.

Hezbollah was established in 1982 during Lebanon’s civil war and is now also a major political party in the country, holding three cabinet posts.

The movement has been designated a terrorist organization by the US since 1997 and the group’s military wing fights alongside the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s civil war.

In this photo from April 13, 2018, supporters of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah hold a banner with his portrait and Arabic words that read: “All the loyalty to the man of nobility.” (AP/Hussein Malla)

Addressing his supporters, Nasrallah stressed that the “financial difficulties that we may face are a result of this (financial) war” and not because of any “administrative defect.”

“They wont be able to impoverish or starve us,” he said. “Those who have supported us will continue to support us… be it states or our support base.”

Washington has targeted the party with tough sanctions, and the European Union blacklisted the group’s military arm in 2013.

Nasrallah said he expects US sanctions “to get tighter on us and our supporters.”

“We may see new names, and new people, and new organizations added to the sanctions lists.”

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