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Liberman: Lebanon should know we’ll use ‘great force’ in future war

In meeting with UN secretary general, defense minister details efforts by Hezbollah, Iran to threaten the Jewish state

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres meets with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on August 28, 2017 (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres meets with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on August 28, 2017 (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman threatened that Israel would respond “with very great force” in a future conflict with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist group, during a meeting with the visiting United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday.

The defense minister told the UN leader that Hezbollah is “stashing various weapons, including missiles and rockets, that are aimed at Israeli citizens in the homes of residents of the villages and cities along the border.”

Liberman added that Iran was “working to set up factories to manufacture accurate weapons within Lebanon itself.”

According to the defense minister, that situation is “insufferable for the State of Israel, and we are determined to prevent every threat to the security of Israeli citizens.”

Illustrative: A Fateh-110 ballistic missile, precursor of the Zolfaghar, taken at an Iranian armed forces parade in 2012. (military.ir/Wikimedia Commons)
Illustrative: A Fateh-110 ballistic missile, precursor of the Zolfaghar, taken at an Iranian armed forces parade in 2012. (military.ir/Wikimedia Commons)

The presence of at least two Iranian missile manufacturing facilities was revealed by Israel earlier this summer. On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Guterres that Iran was also involved in the construction of another missile base in Syria.

Liberman did not explicitly threaten to attack the Iranian missile factories in Lebanon, but he said that “the Lebanese government and the citizens of southern Lebanon should know” that Israel will be forceful in future conflicts.

“We don’t want to hurt uninvolved people, but neither will we remain indifferent to a situation in which [Hezbollah] shoots at our citizens. And we will act quickly, with force and with determination,” he said.

The defense minister joined the full-scale push by Israel and the US to get the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to take greater action against Hezbollah.

A truck that apparently drove from a Hezbollah terrorist base to a watchtower owned by the environmental group 'Green Without Borders' in southern Lebanon, from a video released by the IDF on July 18, 2017. (Screen capture/IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A truck that apparently drove from a Hezbollah terrorist base to a watchtower owned by the environmental group ‘Green Without Borders’ in southern Lebanon, from a video released by the IDF on July 18, 2017. (Screen capture/IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

“Hezbollah is consistently violating UN resolution 1701,” Liberman said, referring to the UN Security Council resolution that ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006, under which Hezbollah was supposed to remain north of the Litani River.

“UNIFIL needs to fulfill the mandate that was given to it by the UN and enforce resolution 1701,” Liberman added.

During his meeting with Guterres earlier in the day, Netanyahu pressed the UN to allow UNIFIL to act more forcefully in southern Lebanon, as have Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon and America’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Liberman spoke highly of the UN’s other peacekeeping force on Israel’s border, the UN Disengagement Observer Force.

A convoy of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force vehicles as it leaves the Syrian side of the Golan Heights into Israel on September 15, 2014. (AFP/Jalaa Marey)
A convoy of United Nations Disengagement Observer Force vehicles as it leaves the Syrian side of the Golan Heights into Israel on September 15, 2014. (AFP/Jalaa Marey)

“UNDOF has the important job of stabilizing the border with Syria, and therefore we support maintaining its status, ensuring its security and returning it to full service, so that it can fulfill its mandate,” he said.

The defense minister was referring to a decision to scale back UNDOF’s presence in the area, following a number of attacks on the force in 2013 and 2014.

According to Liberman, UNDOF can help keep Iran from fulfilling its schemes for the region, including plans “to build an air force and naval base in Syria.”

Iran, he said, is trying to bring Shiite militias into the region, to create a “land bridge” through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon through which it can smuggle advanced and accurate weapons, and to “establish a Shiite hegemony that will threaten all the countries in the region, first and foremost Israel.”

In addition to his comments on the situation in Lebanon and Syria, Liberman accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whom he referred to by his nickname Abu Mazen, of trying to force Israel to go to war with Hamas.

A picture taken on June 13, 2017, shows Palestinian children at home reading books by candle light due to electricity shortages in Gaza City. (AFP/ THOMAS COEX)
A picture taken on June 13, 2017, shows Palestinian children at home reading books by candle light due to electricity shortages in Gaza City. (AFP/ THOMAS COEX)

“Abu Mazen is making the situation in the Gaza Strip worse in order to bring about a clash between the State of Israel and Hamas, which he will enjoy from every aspect,” Liberman said. “The people guilty of the the terrible living situation of the residents of the Gaza Strip are Abu Mazen, who didn’t hesitate to sacrifice them for an internal war, and Hamas, who levies taxes on Gaza residents and invests the majority of the money in digging tunnels and manufacturing and smuggling weapons, instead of improving their lives.”

Liberman also asked Guterres to work to get the Hamas terrorist group to release the two Israeli citizens and the remains of two IDF soldiers that are currently being held by the group.

The defense minister noted that Hamas has not released any information on the conditions of the two civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, nor has it allowed representatives from the Red Cross to meet with them.

“This is cruelty towards the families of the soldiers and the civilians, and I expect the international community and the UN to use its voice and put pressure on Hamas,” Liberman said.

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