Netanyahu threatens ‘crushing’ response after Hezbollah missile boast
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Netanyahu threatens ‘crushing’ response after Hezbollah missile boast

Iran-backed terror group should think ’20 times’ before engaging Israel in a war, premier says, in response to Nasrallah claim that he has many advanced missiles

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office on September 17, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office on September 17, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday warned Hezbollah against attacking Israel, saying any military action by the Lebanon-based terrorist organization would be met with a “crushing blow.”

His remarks came hours after the leader of Hezbollah boasted that the Iran-backed group now possesses “highly accurate” missiles, despite Israeli attempts to prevent it from acquiring such weapons.

Hassan Nasrallah didn’t offer specifics on the weapons in his traditional televised speech commemorating Ashura, a top religious holy day for Shiite Muslims. But he told supporters they need to be confident in Hezbollah’s capabilities and that the regional balance of power has changed.

“I heard the boastful words that came from Hezbollah,” said Netanyahu during a Bible study session at the Prime Minister’s Residence. “This is coming from the same man who, after 2006, said that if he knew what the Israeli response would have been to the kidnapping of three of our soldiers, he would have thought twice whether to do it.”

A Hezbollah supporter holds up portraits of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, right, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, left, during activities to mark the ninth of Ashura, a 10-day ritual commemorating the death of Imam Hussein, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on September 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

The Israeli leader was referring to the events that led to the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah.

“So today I recommend he think not twice, but twenty times. Because if he confronts us, he will receive a crushing blow he can’t even imagine,” added Netanyahu.

Nasrallah, in his speech, also claimed Israeli strikes in Syria to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring precise missiles had proven ineffective.

“I tell [Israel] no matter what it did to cut the [weapons transport] route, it is over. It has already been achieved,” Nasrallah said, adding that Hezbollah “now possesses precision missiles and non-precision and weapons capabilities.”

Israel worries Hezbollah has been improving its capabilities and has acknowledged carrying out scores of strikes in Syria, most of them believed aimed at halting suspected arms shipments for Hezbollah.

“If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, Israel will face a destiny and reality it didn’t expect any day,” Nasrallah said.

This frame grab from video released on July 22, 2017, and provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows Hezbollah fighters firing a missile at positions of al-Qaeda-linked militants in an area on the Lebanon-Syria border. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

Israeli leaders have said they will not allow “game-changing” weapons, such as guided missiles, to reach Hezbollah.

Nasrallah’s speech was broadcast on a large screen to supporters in Beirut’s majority-Shiite suburb of Dahiya.

His remarks came just days after Israel targeted a facility in Syria it said was involved in providing weapons to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, during which a Russian reconnaissance plane was struck by Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

Though the Russian military initially blamed Israel for the downing of the plane, which caused the death of 15 Russian servicemen, Russian President Vladimir Putin later said it was due to “tragic accidental circumstances.”

Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah are all fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in the country’s civil war.

On Wednesday, Nasrallah denied that the target of the Israeli strikes was weapons shipments bound for his group, and accused Israel of using Iran and Hezbollah as an “excuse” while really aiming to degrade Syria’s military capabilities.

“This is a lie. Sometimes they do hit places that are connected to weapons — that they know of — but many of the attacks are not related to that at all,” he said. “Israel is working on preventing Syria from possessing missile capabilities.”

A Hezbollah supporter holds up portraits of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, right, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, left, during activities to mark the ninth of Ashura, a 10-day ritual commemorating the death of Imam Hussein, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on September 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Nasrallah also vowed that Hezbollah would remain in Syria. Some 1,665 Hezbollah fighters have been killed there, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“We will remain there even after the Idlib accord,” Nasrallah said, referring to a Russia-Turkey deal to prevent a Syrian regime offensive on the country’s last rebel-held stronghold.

Nasrallah also urged supporters to rally behind Iran, saying it was facing hard times as more US sanctions take effect in November.

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