Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Friday threatened to leave millions of Israelis without homes in a future war between the Lebanese Shiite militia and the Jewish state.
Addressing supporters in south Beirut, Nasrallah said that the “time in which Israelis destroyed our homes and maintained their homes has ended in 2006,” referring to the Second Lebanon War in which the IDF battled with Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon for a month.
“I clearly say to Israel: the Resistance (Hezbollah) threatens to displace millions of Israelis in the next war if imposed on Lebanon,” Nasrallah said.
He appeared to be responding to comments from an unnamed senior IDF official to military reporters on Thursday to the effect that Israel, if it had no choice in a future war with Hezbollah, would force 1 million to 1.5 million Lebanese residents to evacuate their homes in order to target the Hezbollah missile launchers and other weaponry emplaced in the villages of southern Lebanon. “If you push 1.5 Lebanese from their homes, the islamic resistance in Lebanon will force millions of Israelis from their homes,” Nasrallah said.
“We are not afraid of your war or of your threats,” he said. “If you assume that we are busy in Syria, then you are wrong — because this changes nothing in how we deal with our enemy.”
Speaking to journalists on May 13, an Israeli army official said all villages in south Lebanon are a “military stronghold” where Hezbollah stockpiles rockets capable of hitting his country. “Each (village) is a military stronghold. Next time we have a war with Hezbollah, we will have to attack each one of these targets, and we hope the population will not be there,” the officer said.
The 2006 war claimed over 160 Israeli lives, mostly soldiers, and the lives of over 1,100 Lebanese, roughly half of whom were Hezbollah combatants, according to the UN.
A senior Israeli intelligence official said in May that Hezbollah has amassed an arsenal of rockets and other advanced weapons in Shi’ite villages of southern Lebanon, and warned that civilians would be at risk if war breaks out.
According to the official, Hezbollah possesses roughly 100,000 short-range rockets capable of striking northern Israeli cities and towns. Several thousand longer-range missiles could strike as far as Tel Aviv and central Israel, and hundreds of long-range missiles which can strike the entire country.
Referring to the IDF’s recent civil defense drill, conducted across the country including central and southern Israel, Nasrallah said it was a tacit acknowledgement of Hezbollah’s missile capabilities.
“You are admitting in this drill that you have a defeated army by saying fully and in details that the resistance is able to reach all the areas where the exercises are taking place,” he said, according to a translation published on Hezbollah’s al-Manar website.
A senior IDF officer said in a briefing earlier this week that Hezbollah has lost 700 men since the start of the fighting in Syria and 100 over the past two weeks alone. He said Nasrallah’s recent spate of saber-rattling speeches shows he’s facing “no small amount of embarrassment” in Lebanon, and that Israel has seen the transfer of Hezbollah troops from the south – the border with Israel – to Syria.
AFP, Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.