Hassan Nasrallah reveals a little of Hezbollah's hand

Movement's leader spells out strategy in speech vowing revenge for Israeli attacks

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened revenge on Israel in televised speech on August 31, 2019. AFP 
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened revenge on Israel in televised speech on August 31, 2019. AFP 

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday night pledged to take revenge on Israel for last week’s strikes in Syria that killed two of his fighters, and for drones that crashed in Beirut.

Nasrallah said Israel “must pay a price” for its actions. Less than 24 hours later, his fighters blew up an Israeli military vehicle on the border.

The leader of the Iran-backed movement said his field commanders were ordered to carry out the raid. It is not clear if that meant avoiding Israeli casualties. Israel said none of its soldiers were wounded in the attack.

But the usually elusive Nasrallah made several interesting admissions.

Shortly after two Israeli drones crashed in Beirut – one damaging a Hezbollah media centre when it exploded – Israeli officials said the operation was to stop the party from acquiring equipment from Iran to build precision-guided missiles.

But Nasrallah said such claims were a pretence for causing friction in the region.

Hezbollah had no need or use for such equipment because it had enough missiles already, he said.

“We do not have precision missile factories,” Nasrallah said.

But he said it would be Hezbollah’s right to have such weaponry if it wanted.

“If one day we have precision-missile factories, I will say it with pride and in the open,” he said.

Nasrallah poked fun at the rumours, which he said had been fed to the media by Israeli intelligence.

“Everybody knows there is no precision-missile factory, no missile factory, no shoe factory and no clothes factory. There is no factory there,” he said.

Nasrallah also said he believed the drone incident on August 25 was a botched attack.

Two drones were supposed to drop explosive packages, he said, and a third would detonate them.

If the plan had been successful, the attack would have been untraceable, Nasrallah said.

“And Israel would say, ‘Where is the evidence against Israel? It could have been anyone, maybe takfiris, maybe a terrorist group’,” he said.

Takfiri is a term used by Hezbollah to refer to extremist Sunni groups such as ISIS.

Nasrallah said that the movement would now target Israeli surveillance drones over Lebanon.

“This is our right,” he said, claiming that Israel could use drones for assassinations or “terrorism on Lebanese soil”.

The Lebanese government has appealed to the UN for years about Israeli flights over its territory, but “they did not make any effort to stop Israeli violations of the airspace”, Nasrallah said.

But he also gave himself some leeway, saying that although they would start to hit Israeli surveillance drones, they were not seeking to shoot them all down.

“If we commit to taking down each Israeli drone, it means that from now on Israel will send dozens of drones to exhaust the capabilities of the resistance’s air defence, and we want to follow our own will,” Nasrallah said.

“The important thing is that we arrive at a result where we tell the enemy, 'You are not comfortable in the air because at any moment, at any hour in this new phase, your drone may be hit and downed'.”

Perhaps most revealing was his comment that Hezbollah’s response, which appeared to come yesterday, would not be isolated to the disputed Shebaa Farms area.

The 28-square-kilometre strip of land with more than a dozen abandoned farms is one of two areas listed in UN resolutions over the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, from which it has yet to withdraw.

Because Hezbollah regards the Shebaa Farms as occupied Lebanese territory, the enclave has been the site of several retaliations against Israel.

Nasrallah said that would not be the case. Yesterday’s attacks took place nearly 30 kilometres away from the Shebaa Farms.

He also said that Lebanon’s Amal Movement, the party of Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, backed the Hezbollah position.

Once a rival, Mr Berri’s movement now acts as the main domestic political arm of Hezbollah, co-operating closely but allowing Nasrallah not to appear to be too involved in internal affairs.

In this case, however, he made a point of saying that Mr Berri’s fighters were also ready, although they, like all Lebanese militias other than Hezbollah, officially disarmed after the country’s civil war.

“When Nabih Berri announced today that he invited Amal resistance fighters to be fully ready, that means the resistance in all its movements and factions is in a solid and coherent position,” Nasrallah said.

Updated: September 2, 2019 01:17 AM

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