The head of Lebanese terror group Hezbollah has taunted Israel’s new defense minister, Benny Gantz, saying the co-leader of the new government is “experienced in disappointments” from his time fighting in Lebanon.
Former IDF chief Gantz, as head of the army’s Lebanon Liaison Unit in 2000, was the last soldier out of Lebanon when Israel withdrew its forces, and closed the gate behind the departing troops. He was also the commander of the IDF’s ground forces during 2006’s Second Lebanon War.
In an interview with Lebanese media earlier this week to mark 20 years since Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, Nasrallah also claimed Israel’s efforts to rein in Hezbollah in Lebanon were “a total failure.”
He said Israel’s fear of a new conflict with Hezbollah had led it to avoid attacks in Lebanon in recent years, and asserted this was due to Hezbollah having successfully built deterrence against the Jewish state.
On Tuesday Nasrallah rejected a US request to empower a UN peacekeeping force patrolling the border with Israel.
Speaking ahead of a UN Security Council vote this summer to renew the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), he said: “The Americans, as the result of Israeli demands, are raising the issue of changing the nature of UNIFIL’s mission.
“Lebanon has refused to change UNIFIL’s mission, but Israel wants… it to have the right to raid and search private properties, and the Americans are pressuring Lebanon on this matter,” Nasrallah said.
UN Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah calls for all armed groups, besides the Lebanese military, to be removed from southern Lebanon, in the area south of the country’s Litani River.
Israel has repeatedly claimed that the Hezbollah, occasionally aided by the Lebanese Armed Forces, maintains an active presence in southern Lebanon of both fighters and weaponry despite this prohibition. UNIFIL, which is tasked with ensuring Resolution 1701’s implementation, has indicated that the constraints of its mandate prevent it from being able to fully investigate Israel’s claims, namely because of the peacekeepers’ inability to enter private property.
In August last year, the UN Security Council voted to renew UNIFIL’s mandate for a year. But the resolution included a requirement — on the insistence of the United States, diplomats said — for the UN secretary general to perform an evaluation on the UNIFIL mission and its staff before June 1, 2020.
“We are not against UNIFIL staying,” Nasrallah said. But “the time of deeming Lebanon to be weak is over, and Israel cannot impose conditions on Lebanon, even behind an American mask.”