Hours after Israel allegedly struck Hezbollah targets in Syria, Lebanese President Michel Aoun warned that all the citizens of his country are willing to battle Israel in a future war.
“All the Lebanese are prepared to fight against Israel,” Aoun told Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai on Thursday. “Yes, we are a small country, but we have reestablished our national unity, and part of that is the united opposition to anyone who attacks our country.”
Aoun added that he did “not think there will be war with Israel, because Israel would not win such a war. All Lebanese are ready to resist.”
Israeli officials have expressed concerns over the growing presence and arms buildup of the Hezbollah terror group and its sponsor, Iran, along the Israeli borders with Lebanon and Syria.
In addition to carrying out occasional airstrikes on Hezbollah targets in Syria, Israel is also working to bolster defenses against Hezbollah by reinforcing the barrier wall along its northern border with Lebanon.
On Wednesday, the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament cautioned Israel that its reinforced border wall violates Lebanese sovereignty, and accused it of encroaching on the Prophet Ibrahim religious shrine in the Shebaa Farms border area, which lies on the Israeli side of the Blue Line separating Israel and Lebanon but is claimed by Lebanon as part of the Syrian Golan Heights.
“Such attacks are a blatant violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and require rapid communication with the international organizations in order to put an end to them,” Nabih Berri said, according to the Naharnet news site.
Berri said he believed Lebanon should file a complaint against Israel at the United Nations over the border construction.
Hezbollah is more powerful than the Lebanese army and has seats in the cabinet and parliament. The group also runs a chain of schools, hospitals and charitable organizations that provide services in areas where it enjoys popular support.
Israel believes that the organization employs a force of approximately 25,000 full-time fighters — 5,000 of whom underwent advanced training in Iran — with another at least 20,000 fighters in reserve units.
Hezbollah boasts of possessing attack drones, air defense systems, armored personnel carriers and even tanks. It is also believed to have the Yakhont shore-to-sea missile, with which it can threaten Israeli Navy ships.
Hezbollah is believed to possess between 100,000 and 150,000 projectiles, most of them short range. Israeli officials assess that in a future war, the group would be able to sustain a firing rate of over 1,000 missiles per day.
The group’s leaders threaten to attack or destroy Israel on a regular basis, while Israeli leaders have warned that in a future round of hostilities it would not distinguish between Lebanon and Hezbollah.
Late Wednesday night, Lebanese media reported that Israeli jets destroyed a weapons facility in western Syria from eastern Lebanese airspace.
The IDF refused to comment on the alleged strike, in accordance with its policy of not acknowledging raids across the border.
However, Israel has said repeatedly that it will thwart attempts by Hezbollah to acquire additional advanced weaponry.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.