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Hizbollah threatens to hit Israeli ships if Lebanon is blockaded

Top official Nasrallah warns that any attempt to blockade Lebanon by sea will result in Israeli ships being targeted in their home ports.

BEIRUT // Hizbollah's top official used the 10th anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon to warn that any attempt to blockade Lebanon by sea would result in Israeli ships being targeted in their home ports. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told a large audience of followers via video link that Hizbollah's military capabilities have expanded to include the ability to strike ships entering Israeli ports throughout the country, and that this ability would be used should Israel blockade Lebanon as it did during the 2006 summer war.

"In any future war, if you blockade our coasts and ports, all civilian and military vessels heading for the ports of Palestine along the Mediterranean will be within the range of the fire of the Islamic resistance," Mr Nasrallah said. "We are able to target and hit them and we are determined to enter into this new field in the confrontation if our ports are surrounded." His statement continued Hizbollah's recent policy of threatening Israel with specific retaliation for specific attacks. In the past, Hizbollah had warned that if Israeli forces make good on threats by political figures to target Lebanon's civilian infrastructure, the group would likewise target Israel's infrastructure with its improved weaponry.

In the 34-day war in 2006, Hizbollah responded to massive Israeli bombardments with daily rocket attacks launched from southern Lebanon - averaging more than 100 launches per day - on northern Israel that forced nearly a million Israelis into shelters or to move out of the range of the unguided rockets. It was the first conflict in which both Israel and Lebanon had roughly the same number of people displaced by the hostilities, which in turn resulted in a massive public relations coup for the Hizbollah.

Hizbollah claims to have greatly expanded its arsenal in terms of both range and accuracy but, as Mr Nasrallah again did on Tuesday, declines to be specific. Israeli military and political sources recently accused the group of receiving long-range Scud-type missiles from Syria, as well as other sophisticated long-range ordnance and the group refused to comment. Syria, however, denied transferring the Scuds, describing them as "impractical" for a guerrilla group such as Hizbollah. All sides appear to agree that the group has increased its abilities since 2006.

In that conflict, Hizbollah struck an Israeli frigate off the coast of Lebanon with a guided missile. The attack happened during another speech by Mr Nasrallah, which dazzled even the most cynical observers as he suggested viewers look offshore just as the missile struck its target, illuminating the night sky. On Tuesday, Mr Nasrallah added that any attempts by Israelis to flee by boat would not be targeted, in order to encourage the Jewish population to leave the area.

Israel's week-long military and civil defence drills were also mentioned in the speech, as Mr Nasrallah mocked Israeli attempts to prepare its civilians for any potential rocket offensive. "Through all these drills, [Israel] wants to comfort its internal front," he said. "Do [these] drills as much as you like but when the rockets start hitting, we will see what the drills do for you." mprothero@thenational.ae

Published: May 27, 2010 04:00 AM

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