Nasrallah warns Israel against any "stupid" moves in Lebanon, Syria
Published Friday, January 16, 2015
In an in-depth three-hour interview with Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen television on Thursday, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah spoke at length about the resistance group’s military capabilities, vowing to retaliate against Israeli aggression in Lebanon and Syria. He also spoke about a potential political settlement in both countries, as well as other issues concerning Bahrain, Egypt, and Yemen.
The Hezbollah chief warned that the resistance movement will retaliate against Israel for its repeated strikes on Syria, saying that Hezbollah has missiles that can hit all Israeli-occupied territories and that Hezbollah’s fighters were prepared to storm Galilee in northern Occupied Palestine during any upcoming war against the Zionist entity.
He said the group acquired Fateh-110 missiles, which have a minimum range of 200 kilometers (125 mile) and a pinpoint accuracy that can hit targets from northern to southern parts of the occupied territories.
"We have had this kind of missile since 2006,” Nasrallah replied when asked about the Fateh-110 missiles. “We are now stronger than we ever were as a resistance movement.”
The 2006 Israeli summer aggression on Lebanon killed some 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, and 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers killed by Hezbollah fighters.
Nasrallah’s statements came days after Israeli reports about Hezbollah’s qualitative and quantitative military power claimed the group “possesses 150 rockets, including those that can hit any target across the occupied Palestinian territories.” Pentagon officials estimate Hezbollah has 50,000 missiles, including some capable of reaching Tel Aviv.
Nasrallah also said that Hezbollah was ready to fight a new war against Israel in Lebanon and renewed a threat to invade the Galilee region of northern Occupied Palestine.
"When the resistance (Hezbollah) leadership... asks you (fighters)... to enter into Galilee, that means the resistance must be able to enter into Galilee and to go even beyond the Galilee,” he stated.
Moreover, Nasrallah said that Hezbollah seeks to build a strategic alliance with Hamas and other resistance groups in Palestine, saying that Hamas demonstrated a will to strengthen relations again with Iran and Hezbollah despite differences regarding the Syrian conflict.
“Even if Hamas chooses to mend its relationship with the Syrian regime, Syria might have some difficulty accepting this due to past events and developments,” he said, adding that Palestinians in Syria have joined oppositions groups but there was “no proof” that Hamas was working with a certain group.
Vows of retaliation
A key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Nasrallah said that Israeli strikes on Syria "target the whole of the resistance axis,” which includes Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah fighters in Syria are battling extremist groups in an attempt to thwart threats for Syria, Lebanon and the entire region.
Describing the fight in Syria as “existential,” he said the plot against the neighboring country targets the resistance and their intervention into Syria was in order to preserve the country as well as Lebanon.
"The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria," he told the Beirut-based Arab news television.
"The axis is capable of responding. This can happen any time," he warned.
The Israeli air force consistently violated Syrian territories by carrying out several illegal raids against targets in Syria since January 2013.
The most recent strike was in December, when Israeli warplanes struck weapon warehouses near Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
Israel has refused to confirm or deny involvement in the airstrikes, but Israeli officials have said they will act to prevent transfers of sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah from Syria.
Hezbollah’s Iranian-supplied weapons pass through Damascus, Syria’s capital, hence making Syria a strategic umbrella crucial for the group’s weapons buildup.
Meanwhile, according to Nasrallah, the resistance group has acquired battlefield experience in Syria that poses a serious threat to Israel's security.
The Israelis, Nasrallah said, are aware of the importance of the experience gained by Hezbollah’s commanders and fighters in Syria, adding that all military training are “no replacement for experience on the ground.”
Israeli officials have said in the past that Hezbollah fighters in Syria have learned valuable lessons in mounting offensive and defensive operations in urban and rural environments, coordinating with other forces, such as the Syrian Arab Army and National Defense Forces, and building supply lines to sustain long periods of fighting.
“We are busy in Lebanon, in Syria and probably in other places,” he said with a knowing smile. “But our utmost priority remains to stay ready to confront Israel.”
Nasrallah said that claiming the attack on an Israeli tank in October was proof that the assumption that Hezbollah is embroiled in Syria and could not open another front against Israel was “unfounded,” warning Israel against any “stupid move.”
Last October, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for detonating a bomb that targeted an Israeli tank near the Sadan Israeli military post in the Israeli-occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms.
The group said in a statement at the time that the attack was carried out by the "martyr Ali Hassan Haidar unit," which is named for a Hezbollah member killed on September 5, when an Israeli spying device in Lebanon was detonated remotely as he tried to dismantle it.
Calls for a Syrian unity government
In regards to a political solution in Syria, Nasrallah stressed that any solution should include Assad, saying that a unity government that includes Syrian opposition figures, such as Haytham Manna, might be one of the ways that calm can be restored.
Manna is a human rights and political activist who helped create and became spokesperson of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCC) during the early stages of the Syrian uprising in 2011. More than 200,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict began in March 2011 with peaceful protests against the government that escalated into a multi-sided war due to foreign intervention.
“We should speak of a political solution that includes Assad as well as patriotic opposition groups to end the violence,” Nasrallah asserted.
“Field-wise, the notion of overthrowing Assad or controlling Syria’s military is gone,” he added. “Any solution at the expense of Assad is not a solution.”
Nasrallah said the Free Syrian Army opposition group had lost much of their territory in Syria, either to the Syrian army or to Islamist groups seeking to topple Assad like ISIS and al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, al-Nusra Front.
The Syrian government, mainly backed by Russia and Iran, had said it was ready to join international efforts to fight ISIS. However, regional and Western states have shrugged aside Assad in the fight against ISIS, which has been targeted by US-led airstrikes since September in Syria.
Hezbollah Secretary General accused Turkey of directly funding and supporting ISIS and al-Nusra Front.
In Syria and Iraq, large swathes of land have become ISIS strongholds as the extremist group declared a "caliphate" in territory it seized after it drove Iraq's army — the recipient of $25 billion in US training and funding since the 2003 invasion — to collapse.
Nasrallah asserted that the international anti-ISIS coalition was not “aim[ed] at eradicating ISIS,” criticizing the US-led airstrikes as “ineffective.”
He said the Iraqi army with the help of Iran managed to contain ISIS’ advancement and expansion following the fall of Mosul in June.
On Lebanon, and the Israeli spy in Hezbollah
When asked about Hezbollah’s image at home, Nasrallah said that the Lebanese public continues to support and trust the group’s strategic decisions as time has proven that fighting extremist groups on the northern border is as critical as fighting Israelis on the southern border.
Nasrallah acknowledged for the first time during the interview that Hezbollah apprehended one of its own operatives five months ago for spying on behalf of Israel's intelligence service, Mossad.
"He was detained five months ago and he confessed about all the information he has given (to the Israelis) and the extent of his cooperation," he said, adding that the collaborator’s family was responsible for informing Hezbollah about their son’s actions.
Without naming the spy, Nasrallah played down his importance, adding that the official’s status was exaggerated by the media.
“He was responsible for one department inside one of the security units of Hezbollah,” he said, explaining that the unit was responsible for work of a “sensitive nature.”
"For me this is a breach and should not happen but if it happens then it is part of the battle, it is part of the war between us and Israel," he added.
In terms of Lebanese politics, Nasrallah said that he is very optimistic about the dialogue between Hezbollah and Future Movement, adding that the discussions’ aims were for fighting terrorist groups that do not differentiate between regions or religions or sects and easing sectarian tensions.
“Imagine if the two brutal suicide bombings against our people in Jabal Mohsen happened in a different climate,” he said, “Tripoli would have been set ablaze.”
On January 10, Nusra Front claimed responsibility for a double suicide attack on a cafe in the neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli that killed nine civilians.
Bahrain, Yemen and Egypt
Moving on to regional issues, Nasrallah said that Bahraini protesters were persistent in peacefully demanding the creation of a democratic constitutional monarchy, yet “the [al-Khalifa] regime continues to violently crackdown all dissent.”
“The Bahraini opposition expressed its readiness to reach a political solution with the regime,” Nasrallah said, but Saudi Arabia rejected all regional mediations, including Hezbollah’s, to reach a compromise and “instead aided the Bahraini security forces with their crackdown on the peaceful revolution.”
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf neighbors sent troops into Bahrain in March 2011, reinforcing a crackdown that led to accusations of serious human rights violations. At least 93 people are estimated to have been killed and hundreds have been arrested and tried since peaceful protests erupted in February 2011.
Turning to Yemen, Nasrallah declared that “the relation between Hezbollah and Yemen's Ansarullah [Houthis] is political, not military" and that the resistance movement “was not involved in the recent developments in Yemen."
Houthis established themselves as Yemen's new power brokers when, after months of protests demanding basic rights, they took control of the capital Sanaa on September 21. Their control of Sanaa faced little push-back from the weak administration of Western-backed President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi but have met fierce resistance from tribesmen and al-Qaeda’s branch in the country known as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
"What has been happening lately in Yemen is exclusively related to decisions taken by Ansarullah and the Yemenis,” Nasrallah said, adding that Ansarullah decided to take control after they felt that they were under the threat of being eliminated.
Concerning Egypt, Nasrallah welcomed the return of Egypt's role in Arab and regional arenas, asserting the importance of Egypt as a key regional anchor of stability.
The Secretary General said Hezbollah attempted to contact the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, but the latter repeatedly refrained from establishing good relations with the resistance group and “even rejected all Iranian initiatives to promote mutual relations” between the Islamic republic and Egypt during former President Mohammed Mursi's term.