BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah threatened to attack Tel Aviv if Israel were to bomb Beirut’s southern suburbs, a bastion of the powerful Shi’ite military and political group.
Hezbollah fought against Israel three years ago in a 34-day war after the group captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. Some 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, were killed and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, died.
Israel pounded Beirut’s southern suburbs as well as mainly Shi’ite southern Lebanon where Hezbollah maintains a stronghold and from which Israel withdrew in 2000.
Israeli bombing also hit bridges, roads, airport runways, ports, factories, power and water networks, and military installations, and the eastern Bekaa Valley.
Hezbollah’s daily rocket barrages caused the destruction of some 2,000 homes and apartment buildings in Israeli cities. Tel Aviv was not hit by rocket attacks.
“The equations that used to apply have now changed. Now it is ‘the southern suburbs for Tel Aviv’ and not ‘Beirut for Tel Aviv’,” al-Akhbar newspaper Monday quoted Nasrallah as telling a group of Lebanese emigrants.
“I tell you, and this is not muscle-flexing, the Israeli army will be destroyed in any future war. And any force from the enemy’s army that steps on Lebanese land, will be destroyed, and that is a fact.”
Hezbollah and Israel have not exchanged fire since the war ended three years ago. But tensions have risen recently after a weapons cache exploded earlier this month in southern Lebanon.
The United Nations, which has peacekeepers based in the south, said there are signs the stockpile belonged to Hezbollah, and added that the presence of these arms were a violation of Security Council resolution 1701 which ended the war.
Israel has also said the arms cache belonged to Hezbollah. A Hezbollah lawmaker would only say the blast was a one-off accident that involved the explosion of an arms cache that had been in place before the 2006 war. He denied the explosion was a violation of resolution 1701.
Lebanon has also arrested recently more than 50 people, including three Lebanese army colonels, for spying for Israel.
Lebanon has described the arrests as a major blow to Israel’s intelligence gathering and has formally complained to the U.N. Security Council about its findings. There has been no official word from Israel.
Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Matthew Jones