Hezbollah’s latest rocket fire on Israel from Lebanon was a “message” to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who was sworn in in June, “that the equation of response has not changed” and that Israel does not set the agenda in the region, said Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami on Saturday.
Salami made the comments to Hezbollah deputy secretary-general Naim Qassem during a meeting between the two in Tehran, according to Iranian media.
The meeting Saturday came a day after Hezbollah fired 19 rockets at Israel in the heaviest barrage since the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
A photo of Salami and Qassem was published on Saturday on the IRGC’s Telegram channel. Qassem was in Tehran for the inauguration of ultra-conservative Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. At his inauguration ceremony on Thursday, both Qassem and Hamas terror group chief Ismail Haniyeh could be seen in the audience.
On Saturday, Salami told Qassem during the meeting that “the capacities are ready for the collapse of the Zionist regime,” according to Iranian state-linked media Tehran Times.
Salami also stressed (Arabic) the continued support of Iran for “the resistance” in Lebanon.
Sheikh Naim Qassem, Deputy Secretary General of Hezbollah in Lebanon, met this evening with IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami. pic.twitter.com/1xJI0yejzL
— Tehran Times (@TehranTimes79) August 7, 2021
Back in Lebanon, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said Saturday that the terror group was not seeking escalation with Israel, but would respond in kind to any Israeli airstrikes.
“We wanted to tell our Israeli enemy that any airstrike against Lebanon will absolutely be met with a response — but in an appropriate, proportional way,” Nasrallah said in a pre-scheduled televised address celebrating Hezbollah’s self-described “victory” in the 2006 war against Israel.
Israel struck targets in south Lebanon late Wednesday in response to rocket fire by Palestinian terror groups in the area, according to the Israeli military. On Friday morning, Hezbollah fired a barrage of nineteen 122mm rockets into northern Israel, sending residents in a number of towns in the Golan Heights and Galilee scrambling to shelters.
The terror group immediately took responsibility for the rocket fire and released a video of the assault showing a mobile rocket launcher maneuvering into position, raising the launcher and firing the salvo of rockets at Israel.
For now, Nasrallah said Saturday, Hezbollah’s response has been confined to open military zones in Har Dov, which Lebanese see as occupied territory.
“This is a message that is clear as day: you bombed open areas, so we bombed open areas,” said the Hezbollah chief. “This maintains the existing rules of engagement.”
He added, however, that if Israel continues to conduct airstrikes in Lebanon, Hezbollah may broaden its range of fire.
“Our response could be in the Galilee, or parts of the Lebanese Golan that Israel has occupied. But this will all be considered in due time,” Nasrallah said.
On Friday, Qassem told reporters that although the group did not believe it was heading towards an escalation with Israel, they were “prepared to respond” should Israel strike Lebanese territory again.
The Israeli defense establishment has been closely monitoring events and estimated that there could soon be several days of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, according to an unsourced report by Channel 12 on Saturday.
The United States, meanwhile, urged Lebanon’s government to prevent Hezbollah from firing rockets into Israel
A Shiite terror organization backed by Iran, Hezbollah has long exerted a powerful role in Lebanon, which is wracked by an economic meltdown and has only had a caretaker government for nearly a year.