Lebanon says it can fend off Israeli attacks

Lebanon says it can fend off Israeli attacks

After Netanyahu’s fiery speech on Iran, Defense Minister Sarraf says Beirut ‘will not accept any aggression’

Lebanese Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf said Sunday that his country was prepared to defend itself if Israel launched strikes on its territory.

The comments came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had shot down an Iranian drone in its airspace, and would “act if necessary” against Iran and its proxies, including the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

Sarraf told participants at the Munich Security Conference that he had lived with “an Israeli drone above my head for the past 15 years” but that his country has “no belligerent intent” against anyone.

But, Sarraf said, “we will defend ourselves” and “we are for peace, yet we will not stand for any threat and we will not accept any aggression.”

During his own speech at the Munich conference, Netanyahu slammed the Iran nuclear deal, saying it has emboldened the regime in Tehran to become increasingly aggressive in the region.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves part of an Iranian drone downed in Israeli airspace, during a speech on the third day of the 54th Munich Security Conference (MSC) held at the Bayerischer Hof hotel, in Munich, southern Germany, on February 18, 2018. (Screen capture)

Brandishing a fragment of an Iranian drone downed over northern Israel a week ago, Netanyahu warned the Iranian foreign minister, who was in the audience, to “not test Israel’s resolve.”

He told world leaders, defense officials and diplomats that the 2015 nuclear agreement has “unleashed a dangerous Iranian tiger in our region and beyond.”

“Through its proxies — Shiite militias in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza — Iran is devouring huge swaths of the Middle East,” the prime minister said.

Israel said Iran piloted the drone into its territory last week from a base it has established in Syria.

The Iranian drone, which entered northern Israel near the Jordan border, was shot down by an attack helicopter. In response, Israeli jets attacked the mobile command center from which it was operated, the army said.

During the reprisal raid, one of the eight Israeli F-16 fighter jets that took part in the operation was apparently hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed. The IAF then conducted a second round of airstrikes, destroying between a third and half of Syria’s air defenses, according to IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.

The hostilities marked the first direct clash in Syria between Israel and Iran, after repeated warnings by Israeli leaders that Iran is working to establish a new front on the northern border.

AP contributed to this report.

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