Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Monday claimed Israel’s ground forces were unprepared for a military offensive in Lebanon and the Jewish state could no longer win battles solely from the air.
In a speech, he estimated that Israel would not seek to initiate a conflict with the neighboring country, as its home front is not prepared to withstand missiles fired by Hezbollah at its major cities.
“I lean in the direction that Israel is unlikely to carry out a war on Lebanon,” mused Nasrallah, whose Iran-backed terror group last fought with Israel in 2006. “This is my personal opinion.”
“The Israelis say the home front is not ready. Any theoretical Israeli war needs a ground operation to achieve its desired goal. The era in which the air force decides the battle is over. This has become one of the military axioms in the world. If Israel starts a war, it needs a ground operation to achieve its goal for the war,” he continued.
To underline his view, the Hezbollah chief mocked the Israeli response to two rounds of rocket fire at Tel Aviv and the area in mid-March, which were not intercepted by the missile defense system Iron Dome.
“We saw how two missiles were fired by mistake from Gaza and landed in the Tel Aviv surroundings, and then another missile was shot off from Gaza and landed north of Tel Aviv; all the Israeli measures were not able to do anything,” he said.
During his speech, Nasrallah rebuffed as false a report that he had met with senior commanders and warned that the likelihood of war with Israel over the summer was high. According to the Kuwaiti report, he said Hezbollah could suffer severe casualties and he himself might be killed.
Nasrallah also condemned the United States for ending sanction waivers for countries that purchase oil from Iran on Monday, calling it a reminder that the US “is the real enemy, the first enemy, and the biggest enemy.”
“Israel, the takfiri organizations, terrorists, murderers, and those who launch wars are nothing more than tools of the American project, aggression and tyranny,” he said.
Nasrallah’s speech came days after the new commander of the IDF’s Ground Forces said Hezbollah was still planning to carry out a surprise invasion of northern Israel, despite the recent Israeli operation to uncover and destroy an extensive network of cross-border attack tunnels dug by the militia.
Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick was tapped to lead the military’s Ground Forces in February, amid increased criticism charging that Israeli troops were not prepared for war. His comments came less than four months months after the IDF concluded its anti-tunnel operation along the Lebanese border.
“Hezbollah still has plans to invade the Galilee,” he told the Ynet news site, in an interview on Thursday, referring to entering Israeli territory through a cross-border tunnel network. “Of course, we won’t allow that to happen. We will thwart these plans.”
In December, Israel accused Hezbollah of digging cross-border tunnels into its territory from southern Lebanon and launched an operation to destroy them.
According to the army, Hezbollah had planned to use the tunnels to kidnap or kill civilians or soldiers, and to seize a slice of Israeli territory in the event of any hostilities.
The IDF did not give a total figure for the tunnels found, though it announced in January that six were destroyed during the course of the operation.
Strick also voiced support for declaring war on Lebanon as a whole in Israel’s next fight against Hezbollah.
“In the next war, it would be a mistake for us to distinguish between the state of Lebanon and Hezbollah, since Hezbollah is a political actor and part of the government,” Strick said.
In such a conflict, “if it were up to me, I would recommend declaring war on Lebanon and Hezbollah,” he said. “I have no doubt what the outcome will be… It will be a decisive victory.”
In March, recently retired IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot said that Israel came close to all-out conflict with Hezbollah during his tenure.
Israel last fought a war with Hezbollah in 2006, but tensions along the northern border have remained high. Israel has carried out airstrikes in Syria for years, to prevent weapons transfers to the Iran-backed terror group.
“The Hezbollah threat is a serious threat,” Eisenkot told the conference. “It is a strong organization that has gained experience in running large operations and wants to prepare an attack plan to conquer the Galilee and bring 5,000 fighters underground” into Israel.
The threat of war with Hezbollah had increased during the last three years, he said.