But experts say Nasrallah not interested in starting war
The Secretary General of Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah, has threatened to target any Israeli drone that enters Lebanese airspace, following what he described as a “suicide attack” against a building belonging to the group near Beirut.
The Lebanese Ministry of Information announced that three people were slightly injured inside a Hizbullah media center after two Israeli drones crashed into it Saturday night.
In a subsequent speech, Nasrallah said the incident was “extremely dangerous,” and announced an “end to the time when Israel bombs Lebanon and remains safe.”
Nasrallah said the Lebanese government’s condemnation of the attack and its decision to refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council were positive steps, but said he intends to do more.
“Today, I say to the people of the North and to all the citizens of occupied Palestine, do not rest, and don’t think Hizbullah will allow such aggression,” he said.
Qassem Qasser, a Lebanese political analyst, told The Media Line that if Hizbullah doesn’t fulfill its promise of retaliation, Nasrallah will lose credibility. Qasser said Nasrallah’s speech sent a “clear message to Israel and the United States that any aggression targeting Lebanon will be responded to.
“Nasrallah said the response will come from Lebanon, and said it’s going to happen soon,” Qasser continued. “The most important thing is what is he going to do to retaliate, not what he said in the speech.”
Qasser added that Israel has beefed up security along its border with Lebanon and that Israeli drones are continuing to fly there.
The attack in Lebanon came amid air strikes by Israel against alleged Iranian targets near the Syrian capital Damascus. A spokesman for the Israeli military said the strikes were aimed at the Quds Force, part of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
Nasrallah contended the strike in Syria was against a Hizbullah center and killed two members of the group.
Hisham Jaber, a Lebanese security analyst, told The Media Line that “Nasrallah made it clear that the airstrikes in Syria were targeting Hizbullah, not Iran. He affirmed that if Israel kills any member of the group in Lebanon or Syria, Hizbullah will respond from Lebanon.”
Jaber qualified, however, that Nasrallah had stopped short of a declaration of war. Indeed, Nasrallah urged Lebanese officials to ask Washington to press Israel to remain calm.
Jaber said Hizbullah “won’t open a front with Israel from Lebanon, but when the Israeli military attacks, the group is going to attack back the same way, without starting a war.
“If Israel attacks first,” he elaborated, “Hizbullah’s opponents in Lebanon would come to its defense. On the other hand, if Hizbullah initiates a conflagration, it would drag Beirut into a broader geopolitical war with the different political parties maintaining their competing agendas. Seventy percent of the Lebanese people are against a war with Israel. A war would destroy the country’s infrastructure.”
Lior Akerman, an Israeli security analyst, told The Media Line that Hizbullah is continually developing its operational capabilities, improving its weapons, and preparing to fight Israel.
“There is nothing new about Nasrallah’s threats. The IDF is prepared and ready for any possible scenario ,” Akerman said.
He added that while Hizbullah would like to launch a major attack on Israel, “Hizbullah recognizes that Israel’s response would be very tough and destroy the huge missile and rocket infrastructure Hizbullah has built in recent years in southern Lebanon.
“At this point, Hizbullah would prefer not to be drawn into a widespread [military] campaign,” Akerman said. “Such actions would seriously damage the organization and would legitimize Israel to attack other Iranian facilities operating in Syria and Lebanon.”
Alon Pinkas, former Israeli consul general in New York, told The Media Line that Israel takes Nasrallah’s threats “very seriously, [as] Hizbullah is well-equipped and trained.” Pinkas said that Israel isn’t interested in a war, but recognizes that Hizbullah is likely to launch “some semblance of retaliation.”
Israeli jets flew into Syria on Thursday to destroy explosive-laden Iranian drones before they could enter Israel.