A war of words ensued on Thursday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the chieftain of the Hezbollah terrorist movement Hassan Nasrallah when the latter issued bellicose threats from his headquarters in Lebanon. Nasrallah had issued a statement declaring that his Lebanese terror group had acquired “precision missiles” despite consistent efforts by Israel to prevent the Shiite movement from developing this kind of military capability.
“It has been done. The resistance now owns precision missiles” as part of its weaponry, Nasrallah said in a televised address during the key Shiite commemoration of Ashura, according to an AFP report.
“Attempts in Syria to block the way towards this missile capability have failed”, Nasrallah said.
Earlier this month, Israel acknowledged that the IDF had engaged in more than 200 strikes over the past 18 months in Syria, where Hezbollah fights alongside Israel’s arch-foe and Shiite powerhouse Iran in support of the Assad regime in Damascus.
“If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, it will face a fate that it never would have expected,” Nasrallah threatened.
Thursday afternoon, Netanyahu responded that Nasrallah should not think twice but “at least 20 times” before deciding whether to attack Israel.
“If he seeks conflict with us, he will receive a lethal blow he cannot even imagine,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
The Israeli premier made reference to what Nasrallah had previously said following Israel’s last conflict with Hezbollah in 2006, in which the Hezbollah chief pledged that had he known the response of the Jewish state he would have thought twice before kidnapping three of its soldiers.
The Israeli military believes Hezbollah has between 100,000 and 120,000 short-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred longer-range missiles.
Hezbollah, largely supported by Iran, maintains an active presence in Syria backing the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
Late Monday, Syrian defenses mistakenly downed a Russian warplane after Israeli air strikes targeted a military facility in the coastal province of Latakia, where weapons manufacturing systems were “about to be transferred on behalf of Iran” to Hezbollah, according to a statement from the Israeli army.
In the same statement on Thursday, Netanyahu said Israel would not back down against the root problem that is “Iran’s attempt to use Syrian territory for attacks against Israel and to arm our enemies like Hezbollah.”
He pledged greater security coordination with the Russians in Syria, sending a team headed by Israel’s commander of the air force, Major General Amikam Norkin, to Moscow “to continue to protect our citizens.”
On Tuesday, Netanyahu said his country was “determined to stop Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and the attempts by Iran, which calls for the destruction of Israel, to transfer to Hezbollah lethal weaponry (to be used) against Israel”.