Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Monday evening said his Iran-backed terror group would begin targeting Israeli drones flying in Lebanese airspace, and announced there were “no more red lines” in the fight against Israel, a day after brief but intense cross-border clashes. If attacked again, he said, Hezbollah would strike “deep inside” Israel.
In a televised speech to mark a Shiite religious festival, Nasrallah said: “Enough. The Lebanese have the right to defend themselves, and we will defend. There is now a new operational space [for Hezbollah], and it is Lebanon’s skies. When it comes to dealing with the UAVs, it will happen. I won’t specify when and how, but it will come.”
“For dozens of years, infringing on the borders of 1948 has been one of the biggest red lines for the enemy,” he added, taking pride in the fact that unlike previous attacks that were directed at the Sheba Farms, territory claimed by Lebanon, Sunday’s missile strike was directed at an area not claimed by Beirut as part of its territory.
Hezbollah said it fired anti-tank missiles at Israel on Sunday and destroyed an Israeli military vehicle across the border, killing and injuring soldiers. The IDF said no Israeli troops were injured by the two or three missiles fired by Hezbollah. Pictures and videos showing injured soldiers being evacuated had been a ploy meant to trick Hezbollah into thinking it had caused casualties, Israel said.
But Israeli reports later Monday indicated that two Hezbollah missiles had narrowly missed an IDF medical vehicle, with five soldiers inside, and Israeli sources said IAF warplanes were already in the air and would have struck back had soldiers been hit. “The fact that Nasrallah missed and didn’t kill any Israelis saved Hezbollah from the destruction of its precision missile program,” an Israel Defense Forces source was quoted as saying by Channel 12 news. “The planes were already in the air.”
In his comments Monday, Nasrallah did not address the question of casualties, instead focusing on the supposed audacity of the attack.
In the past, “[Israel] would not tolerate anyone putting a hand on the fence, sending something like a drone back and forth quickly, shooting in the air or throwing a bomb into an open area,” Nasrallah said. “It would respond harshly because for it that was a red line. What happened yesterday is that the resistance broke what has for the past dozens of years been the biggest Israeli red line.
“It is no longer a red line,” he said. “That has ended. There are no more red lines.”
Nasrallah vowed to hit “deep inside Israel,” and not just along the border, in case of a new Israeli attack. “If you attack us, your borders, soldiers and settlements — including those on the border and those deep inside [Israel] — will be threatened and targeted,” he said.
“If there is any aggression against Lebanon, there will be no such thing as international borders. The move that the resistance pulled off yesterday will be pulled off at any time in the future in a greater, larger and more important way,” he added.
Nasrallah took credit for what he termed a successful operation in Sunday’s missile attack on IDF positions, despite the failure to cause Israeli casualties.
“Despite all the preparations and fake targets the enemy scattered along the border, we waited for our target and when it came, we hit it, without any doubt,” he said of the missiles which struck the IDF vehicle as well as an army post at Avivim.
And he urged his followers not to view the Sunday attack as underwhelming, saying its importance was in the psychological effect it had on the Israelis.
“The entire border was evacuated, you couldn’t see a single soldier on the border, nor any of the tractors we saw for a time. Second, they evacuated all their forward command posts,” Nasrallah said. “They emptied entire bases, like Avivim, a complete evacuation. A reporter from one channel walked around there and showed how everything was empty, there was no one. Entire outposts were emptied, some of them deep inside [Israeli territory].”
He was referring to a report by RT Arabic Monday in which a reporter could be seen walking around the Avivim post, which was deserted. The IDF later acknowledged it had been evacuated due to the Hezbollah threats.
Nasrallah mocked Israel’s response to the anti-tank missile attack: “Israel, which responds to every grenade or action, did everything it could to contain the incident, and most of the fire it directed [toward Lebanon in response to the Hezbollah attack] was at defensive targets, not offensive ones.”
“In any case, the world saw today what was published in the press,” he added, making an apparent reference to a video of the attack published earlier in the day by the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar TV station. “What happened is a reflection of boldness, bravery, precision and responsibility.”
The footage shows a Hezbollah fighter launching a Kornet guided missile at what appears to be a moving Israeli armored personnel carrier patrolling along the border fence. An additional launch at the APC is seen from further away. While the Hezbollah-affiliated network stated that the two strikes destroyed the APC, it is not clear from the footage that the military vehicle endured a direct hit given the billows of smoke that surrounded it.
The APC itself was not hit by either projectile, according to findings from an IDF analysis published earlier Monday. Rather, a piece of shrapnel from the explosion of one of the projectiles hit a tire, forcing the vehicle to stop on the side of the road, the military said.
Also Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a video statement on Sunday’s exchange of fire with Hezbollah, saying Israel “acted with determination and responsibility. We kept our citizens safe and also guarded the well-being of our soldiers.”
“The man in the bunker in Beirut knows exactly why he is in a bunker,” Netanyahu said of Nasrallah. “We will continue to do everything necessary to keep Israel safe — at sea, on the ground and in the air — and we will also continue to work against the threat of the precise missiles.”
Adam Rasgon, Jacob Magid, and AFP contributed to this report.