Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned the Hezbollah terror group that Israel would deal a “crushing” blow to Lebanon if it attacks, two days after the organization’s leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel could be “wiped out” during a potential war between the United States and Iran.
“Over the weekend we heard Nasrallah’s arrogant words about his attack plans,” Netanyahu said at the outset of the weekly cabinet meeting. “Let me be clear that if Hezbollah dares to commit an act of stupidity and attack Israel — we will deal it and Lebanon a crushing military blow.
“But unlike Nasrallah, I do not intend to detail our plans,” Netanyahu added. “It would be enough to mention that for years Nasrallah dug terror tunnels which we demolished within days. As the saying goes — don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.”
In an interview broadcast Friday on Hezbollah’s Al Manar televison, Nasrallah said: “Iran is able to bombard Israel with ferocity and force. When the Americans understand that this war could wipe out Israel, they will reconsider.”
During the interview, a chuckling Nasrallah referred to a map of Israel and pointed to strategic military and civilian targets which he said Hezbollah could hit, including Ben Gurion Airport, arms depots, petrochemical and water desalinization plants, and the Ashdod port.
He claimed that an attack on Haifa’s ammonia storage tanks — which have been emptied out — would cause tens of thousands of casualties. He also specified that his missiles could hit the southern Israeli city of Eilat on the Red Sea. The question would be “which of us would send the other back to the Stone Age,” he declared.
Israel has long warned that Hezbollah plans to try and invade northern Israel in any future war and recently uncovered several attack tunnels built deep into Israel that were supposed to allow its fighters to enter into Israel.
The exchange came amid soaring tensions between the US and Iran and after the US House of Representatives voted to restrict US President Donald Trump’s ability to attack Iran, voicing fear that his hawkish policies are pushing toward a needless war.
It was not clear if Nasrallah had been referring to Iran’s arsenal of long-range missiles or the tens of thousands of rockets and missiles that Iran has supplied the Lebanese Hezbollah.
Also during the interview, Nasrallah said his Iran-backed group had significantly improved its military capabilities since the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.
“Our weapons have been developed in both quality and quantity, we have precision missiles and drones,” he said in the interview to mark 13 years since the war.
In recent weeks the US has sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Middle East, and fears are growing of a wider conflict after mysterious oil tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz blamed on Iran, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia, and Iran’s downing of a US military drone.
Iran has recently begun surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the accord a year ago.
The US has also re-imposed tough sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports, exacerbating an economic crisis that has sent its currency plummeting.
Last Tuesday, Washington announced fresh sanctions against Hezbollah, targeting elected officials from the movement for the first time.
Hezbollah is considered to be a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, the European Union, the Arab League and others, and is the only faction not to have disarmed after the Lebanese 1975-1990 civil war.
But it is also a major political player in the small Mediterranean country, taking 13 seats in parliament last year and securing three posts in the current cabinet.
Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.