Nasrallah says Iran, Hezbollah may begin responding to Syria strikes

Terror chief warns Netanyahu against ‘miscalculation’ that could drag the region into war; says Israel failed to keep Iran out of Syria or Hezbollah from getting advanced arms

Illustrative. This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows missiles flying into the sky near the international airport in Damascus, Syria, January 21, 2019. (SANA via AP)
Illustrative. This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows missiles flying into the sky near the international airport in Damascus, Syria, January 21, 2019. (SANA via AP)

The chief of the Hezbollah terror group on Saturday warned it could respond to Israeli airstrikes in Syria targeting mainly Iranian positions and what Israel says are weapons shipments.

Hassan Nasrallah said the alliance between Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, Iran, and his Lebanese Hezbollah movement could end its policy of not responding to the Israeli strikes.

“At any moment the Syrian leadership and the axis of resistance can take a decision to deal with the Israeli aggression in a different manner,” Nasrallah said in a wide-ranging interview with Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV network.

Addressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly, Nasrallah warned that a misstep could lead to a wider conflict.

“Be cautious not to exaggerate what you are doing in Syria. Miscalculation could drag the region into a war or a major confrontation,” he said.

Satellite images released by the IDF of what it says are Iranian facilities inside a Syrian army base near Damascus, which were destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on January 21, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel says it has carried out thousands of strikes against Iranian targets in Syria to keep Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force from entrenching itself there.

It has also carried out strikes against shipments of advanced missiles to Hezbollah.

Jerusalem has recently begun to open up about its years-long campaign in Syria, a move some have said may push Iran, Hezbollah or Syria into responding.

Most airstrikes have passed with no retaliation. Last week, Iran fired a missile from Syria at Israel following a rare daytime strike near Damascus. It was intercepted by an Iron Dome air defense battery.

Israel has warned it will continue to target positions in Syria held by Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

Reacting to the interview, the Arabic spokesman for Israel’s military wrote on Twitter that Nasrallah is “isolated on all sides.”

“Lebanese citizens know you aren’t defending Lebanon, but destroying Lebanon,” Avichay Adraee tweeted.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah during an interview with al-Mayadeen, January 26, 2019 (screen capture)

In the interview, which lasted over 3 hours, Nasrallah boasted that Israel so far has failed to undermine the Syrian government, extract Iran from Syria or prevent Hezbollah from acquiring precision missiles.

“You did not succeed in preventing the arrival of the needed capabilities in Lebanon. So you failed. You failed in Syria. Now you are [carrying out airstrikes]. But that doesn’t mean you are achieving your goal.”

He also said Netanyahu had been the biggest loser from the planned US withdrawal from Syria and cited the pullout as another “failure.”

Israeli officials have worried the US pullout from the al-Tanf base near the Iraqi border will free Iran to move weapons into Syria and on to Lebanon with greater ease.

Israel has said Hezbollah possesses a small number of precision-guided missiles, and is seeking thousands for use in a future war, a threat the Jewish state is determined to prevent.

Asked if Hezbollah had precision missiles, he answered “Of course, we possess a sufficient number of precision missiles.”

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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