Responding to IDF op-ed, Hezbollah lawmaker says Israel is afraid
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Responding to IDF op-ed, Hezbollah lawmaker says Israel is afraid

Army spokesperson's warning to Lebanese over Iran's attempts to build missiles in country dismissed as 'provocative nonsense issued only by a coward'

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

A tank flying the Hezbollah terror group's flag is seen in the Qara area in Syria's Qalamoun region on August 28, 2017 (AFP Photo/Louai Beshara)
A tank flying the Hezbollah terror group's flag is seen in the Qara area in Syria's Qalamoun region on August 28, 2017 (AFP Photo/Louai Beshara)

A Hezbollah lawmaker on Monday struck back against a rare op-ed published in Lebanese media by an Israeli army spokesperson, saying his warnings of Iran manufacturing rockets in the country were “provocative nonsense” and that Hezbollah was now in a position to destroy the Israeli army.

Israel’s top military spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis accused Hezbollah of morphing Lebanon into a branch of Iran, and of turning Lebanon into “one big missile factory,” in a piece published Sunday in Arabic in several Lebanese news outlets.

In response, Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad, writing in Al-Hewar Al-Motamaden, one of the Lebanese blog sites Manelis published in, said, “Israel should not be unmindful and engage itself in a war that would destroy it… Hezbollah has become today stronger and has what it takes to destroy the Israeli army,” he wrote.

“Israel has become isolated internationally and regionally. Its media spins are a cover for its inability to shows itself as strong,” he added.

IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis. (Israel Defense Forces)

In his op-ed on Sunday, Manelis said Iran’s extensive support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group had turned the country into a “branch” of the Islamic Republic.

“Lebanon is becoming, by default and by the failure of the Lebanese authorities, one big missile factory,” wrote Manelis.

“It is no longer just the transfer of weapons, money and advice. Iran has de facto opened a new branch — ‘the Lebanon Branch.’ Iran is here,” he added.

The Hezbollah MP, on Monday, called such claims “provocative nonsense issued only by a coward.”

“The authority of the Zionist entity, try as it may, will not be able to convince the Arab and Islamic peoples to give up the idea of resisting the Zionist occupation. The day will come when the Hezbollah flag will be raised over Jerusalem and the Palestinians will regain their occupied land,” he declared.

Over the past year, Israel has warned against Iranian efforts to set up weapons production facilities in Lebanon. On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would discuss the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

A member of the Hezbollah terror group holds Lebanese and Hezbollah flags during a press tour near the border town of Arsal on July 25, 2017. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

Israel has also warned against the establishment of Iranian missile factories in Syria, as well as the transfer of advanced weapons from that country to Hezbollah. Dozens of airstrikes on weapons convoys bound for Lebanon have been attributed to Israel by foreign media reports.

Hezbollah, which has long targeted Israel and Jews worldwide, is currently fighting in the Syrian civil war on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a fellow Iran ally. The Lebanese terror group has also been accused of assisting Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq and Yemen.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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