Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday dismissed last week’s Middle East conference in Warsaw as “weak and stale,” and warned that Arab leaders moving toward normalization with Israel were only “a tool” in Israel’s hands.
In a speech marking the terror group’s annual remembrance day for “martyrs,” Nasrallah said the summit in Poland, which focused strongly on Iran’s belligerence in the region, aimed to “rally against Iran and the resistance movements in the region… The enemies are trying to rally the world to conspire against the resistance after their wars failed to eradicate it.”
He said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “speaking from the heart” when he talked at the conference of seeking “war with Iran,” a statement that has been characterized as a mistranslation of Netanyahu’s original Hebrew comments.
But Nasrallah asserted that “today Iran is a strong state and stronger than anyone who targets it with war.”
Nasrallah said the Warsaw summit had “brought out into the open Israel’s relations with the Gulf states.
“We knew about normalization between Israel and Oman and the United Arab Emirates, but at the summit we also clearly saw normalization with the Saudis,” he said.
The Hezbollah chief attacked Yemen’s foreign minister for sitting beside Netanyahu at the summit, saying it “revealed that… the Yemen war is an Israeli-American war carried out by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”
Saudi Arabia has been leading the years-long fight against the Iran-backed rebels in Yemen. Many thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed in the war.
“Those who attack the people in Yemen, who control Bahrain that acts against Iran, who sit beside Israel at the Warsaw conference and normalize relations with Israel — they are all tools in the hands of this [Israeli and American] plan,” Nasrallah said.
He claimed the summit was also intended to “eliminate the Palestinian cause,” noting it “missed any reference to Palestine, even though Israel is the head of terror” in the region.
Nasrallah also referred to recent claims by some Israeli officials that the Israeli Ground Forces are not prepared for war with the terror group in the north, saying Israelis “don’t believe in their army.”
The issue of the Israel Defense Forces’ readiness for conflict has made headlines in recent months, particularly in light of the Defense Ministry ombudsman’s ongoing public clash with military leaders over his claims — refuted by both military and Knesset officials — that the army is woefully unprepared for war.
“They don’t believe in their army,” the Hezbollah chief said. “They know our fighters can enter the Galilee, but they’re not sure their Ground Forces can enter our land.”
Nasrallah recently boasted in another speech of his organization’s plans for invading northern Israel.
“Senior officials in the Israeli army say it is not ready, particularly the Ground Forces. The officers don’t believe in it, the soldiers don’t believe in it and neither does the government. These are not my words, but the words of by Israeli army leaders.”
He added: “It wasn’t like that in the past. Residents of southern Lebanon are not afraid, but residents of the Galilee are very fearful. That is what deterrence looks like. This is a new state of things.”
On Tuesday, a number of signs mocking the IDF were placed on the Lebanese border, apparently by Hezbollah. “If you don’t trust your Ground Forces, who were beaten in Lebanon, you need to send them to your search-and-rescue forces. You’ll need them,” the signs read, in stilted Hebrew. The signs also featured photographs of Israeli soldiers crying and a tank on fire.
Netanyahu said last month military forces were ready to deliver a “crushing attack” to the nation’s enemies.
Nasrallah also mocked Israeli leaders’ threats against his organization.
“Sometimes Israelis say in their speeches, ‘If Nasrallah knew how much we knew about him, he wouldn’t sleep at night.’ If your information is correct and you know everything about us, about all that we have, it only gives us more confidence, because or deterrence will become even stronger.”
He claimed that the organization now had 40 “hubs,” each of which had more power than Lebanon’s entire “resistance” had possessed in the year 2000.
On Friday the IDF said that over the past week troops conducted a massive drill to train for combat operations in topographical conditions similar to those in Lebanon.
The exercise was the largest one carried out by the 401st Brigade of the Armored Corps in recent years, according to Channel 12 news. The soldiers carried out drills in coordination with the Israeli Air Force, as well as the engineering and intelligence corps.
The brigade’s commander, Col. Dudu Sonago, said Hezbollah fighters have gained extensive experience and have developed more sophisticated battle techniques after fighting in neighboring Syria’s civil war, at the same time as deepening entrenchment above and below ground in Syria.
“They are no longer a guerrilla organization, but a real army,” he said.
Nasrallah also denied US assertions that it has cells in Venezuela. The Latin American nation has plunged deeper into political chaos following the US demand that President Nicolas Maduro steps down a month into his second term.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that “Hezbollah has active cells” in Venezuela and “Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America.”
But Nasrallah said Venezuela “does not need” Hezbollah, though his group was in “solidarity with the political leadership and state of Venezuela against the American aggression.”
AP contributed to this report.