Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel on Friday that his organization intended to carry out a game changing revenge attack for the death of one of its fighters in an airstrike last month that was widely attributed to Israel.
He also called the new UAE-Israel normalization deal a betrayal of Arabism, and said the UAE had given “a personal electoral favor” to US President Donald Trump.
Israel had been on high alert along the northern border, but slightly reduced its troop presence following the deadly explosions that rocked Beirut last week, killing some 200 people, injuring thousands, and leaving nearly a third of a million people homeless.
“Everything that happened since July until today, the high alert of the Israeli military and more is our punishment to Israel,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech commemorating the anniversary of the end of the bloody 2006 conflict between Israel and the Iran-backed terror group. “If you kill us, you need to wait across the border for the reaction. This is a decision that is still in force, nothing has changed it is just a question of time.”
Nasrallah warned that Hezbollah’s reaction will “redefine the rules of the game along the border,” adding that only a “considered, serious reaction, not some public relations stunt, can do this.”
In his speech, which came hours after he was reported to have met with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Nasrallah also condemned the normalization agreement announced Thursday between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
“This is a betrayal of Islam and Arabism, it is a betrayal of Jerusalem, of the Palestinian people,” Nasrallah said.
“What the UAE did was give a personal electoral favor to President Trump,” he added.
Israel has been bracing for a possible attack from Hezbollah in retaliation for a July 20 airstrike in Syria attributed to the IDF, in which a member of the Iran-backed terror group was killed.
Defensively, the IDF moved troops away from areas vulnerable to attack and stepped up surveillance along the frontiers, and to prepare for the need to retaliate forcefully, the IDF also deployed infantry, special forces and artillery reinforcements to the area.
The IDF credits its heightened state of alertness with foiling an attempted attack by Hezbollah on July 26, in which a group of at least three armed terrorist operatives entered the Israeli-controlled area of Mount Dov, also known as Shebaa Farms, along the border.
Hezbollah denied carrying out the attack, saying the IDF’s claims were “absolutely false.” The group also said that it still plans to retaliate for the killing of its member.
In his speech, Nasrallah also warned that Hezbollah was waiting for the results of the investigation into the Beirut port blast, saying that if any evidence was found of Israeli involvement, then there would be massive retaliation.
Nasrallah also said he did not trust any international investigation — claiming the first thing it would do is clear Israel of any responsibility in the port explosion.
“There is a possibility that someone put a bomb in the port that caused the explosion. It could have been any number of sources and Israel is one of them,” Nasrallah said, adding that the blast could also have been caused by negligence.
“If Israel is behind the explosion, Hezbollah will not be silent and Israel will receive an equally devastating response.” he said
Israel has denied any involvement in the blast and so far no evidence has emerged pointing otherwise. Most observers have blamed the August 4 blast at Beirut’s port, when thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate ignited setting off a massive explosion, on negligence and corruption. An Israeli TV report last week suggested a Hezbollah aspect, noting the terror group’s previous connections to ammonium nitrate.
Nasrallah also said that Hezbollah will ignore the verdict due next week by a UN-backed court on the 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is expected to hand down its verdict on Tuesday to four suspects, who were all being tried in absentia and are alleged members of Hezbollah.
“We do not feel concerned by the STL’s decisions,” Nasrallah said.
“For us it will be as if no decision was ever announced,” he said. “If our brothers are unjustly sentenced, as we expect, we will maintain their innocence.”
Nasrallah has repeatedly expressed similar views completely rejecting the jurisdiction and independence of the court, which is based in The Netherlands.
The slain former prime minister’s son Saad Hariri, himself a former premier, is expected in The Hague for the verdict.
The four defendants went on trial in 2014 on charges including the “intentional homicide” of Hariri and 21 others, attempted homicide of 226 people wounded in the bombing, and conspiracy to commit a terrorist act.
Nasrallah warned that “some will attempt to exploit the STL to target the resistance and Hezbollah” but urged his supporters to be “patient” when the verdict is announced.