No more shooting fish in a barrel

February 19, 2009

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict

By Reuters

In his first remarks on Israel’s recent elections, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Monday warned that Jerusalem’s incoming government would be defeated in Lebanon just as its predecessors were.

“The good news is that Israel has become more candid and more clearer,” Nasrallah said, in reference to the success of hawkish Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman.

Addressing his supporters via video, Nasrallah urged them “not to let [the election results] frighten you, because whoever comes to frighten us, all of them have been defeated in Lebanon – Begin, Sharon, Rabin, Barak, Netanyahu, Olmert, and Livni. There is one who has yet to try and that is Lieberman… He too will be defeated.”

Also on Monday, Nasrallah renewed his promise of wreaking vengeance on Israel over the 2008 assassination of the Islamist group’s military commander, Imad Mughniyeh.

If the next Israeli government decides to send its army and military brigades into Lebanon’s towns and villages, “they will be destroyed at the hands of Imad Mughniyeh’s trainees,” Nasrallah told a rally gathered to commemorate the first anniversary of the militant’s assassination.

“We have fought this struggle against this [Israeli] enemy … on the basis of surprises,” Nasrallah said, drawing cheers from thousands of supporters waving Hezbollah’s yellow flags at a complex in the group’s stronghold south of Beirut.

“This promise will be fulfilled, God willing…,” he said, adding that he would say no more on the matter.

Israel has never confirmed it was behind the car bomb attack, although it welcomed the death of a man who had been on the United States’ most wanted list for 25 years.

Mughniyah had been blamed for a wave of Western hostage-taking in Beirut in the 1980s and deadly attacks on U.S. and Israeli targets in Lebanon and beyond.

The leader of the Iranian-backed group also said that Hezbollah has the right to acquire air-defense weapons and to use them against Israeli warplanes that violate Lebanese air space on a daily basis.

These remarks by Nasrallah were the first indication that the group might have already obtained such a system that could inflame tensions with Israel 2-1/2 years after the enemies fought a 34-day war.

“Every few days there is [an Israeli media] report that the resistance has obtained advanced air-defense weapons, of course I don’t deny or confirm this,” Nasrallah said.

“What I want to confirm today is that we have every right to obtain any weapon, including air-defense weapons, and we have every right to use this weapon,” he added.

Nasrallah said obtaining such a system would tip the balance in any conflict with Israel because Israel relies heavily on air supremacy in its military planning.

Nasrallah has been more open about his group’s military capabilities since the 2006 war as part of a deterrence strategy.

The group managed to replenish its arsenal and increase the size of its military wing in the months following the 2006 war despite a UN Security Council resolution banning any arms shipments to the group.

Israel has conducted daily overflights of Lebanon, also in breach of the UN resolution, arguing that it needs to monitor Hezbollah’s rearming and military movements.