BEIRUT: Israel will target the whole of Lebanon in any future conflict against Hizbullah, according to its Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post in Tel Aviv – in which the former prime minister discusses sanctions on Iran as well as the potential for renewed aggression against Lebanon – Barak indicated that no target would escape possible strikes should war flare up along the Blue Line.
“We will not run after each Hizbullah terrorist or launcher,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. “We will see it as legitimate to hit any target that belongs to the Lebanese state, not just to Hizbullah.”
Barak added that the Lebanese government was allowing Hizbullah to rearm.
Barak made similar comments last summer, when he ruled out avoiding vital Lebanese infrastructure in any future altercation, as he claimed was the case in the July 2006 war, after a tacit agreement with the United States that Israel would refrain from hitting non-military targets. The conflict killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mainly soldiers.
Barak was due to arrive in Washington on Monday for talks with US President Barack Obama where the former will outline the possibility of an attack on Lebanon should Hizbullah fire rockets into Israeli territory.
The war of words between Hizbullah and Israel reignited in April when Israeli President Shimon Peres claimed that the party had received long-range SCUD missiles – capable of hitting densely populated Israel cities – across Lebanon’s porous border with Syria. Damascus strongly denied the allegations and, in spite of assenting voices from Washington officials, UN observers have noted that no proof exists to corroborate Peres’ assertion of weapons smuggling.
Earlier in July, Israeli military intelligence released satellite images of southern Lebanese villages. Khiam, four kilometers from the UN-demarcated Blue Line, was claimed to be home to several missile silos which, if true, would contravene Security Council resolution 1701, which stipulates no arms must exist in Lebanon outside of state control.
Hizbullah has maintained its policy on not commenting on the size or makeup of its arsenal, which some Israeli analysts put at 40,000 missiles.