BEIRUT: Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said Thursday that rockets fired by Palestinian groups on Tel Aviv took the Jewish state by surprise and marked an important development in the conflict between Israel and the resistance movement in the Palestinian territory.
Nasrallah, who spoke on the occasion of Ashura, also urged Arab states to pressure America and Western states to put an end to what he described as Israel’s “brutal” assault on Gaza and expressed confidence in the Palestinian resistance’s ability to confront the Jewish state.
“Israel was surprised today with rockets falling [on Tel Aviv] and it admitted that rockets ... of the Fajr 5 variety fell on Tel Aviv. This is a development of great importance in the history of the struggle between the resistance and the Israeli enemy,” Nasrallah said.
“This definitely surprised the Israelis, their calculations and intelligence,” he added.
He said the targeting of Tel Aviv by the Fajr 5 rockets held important implications at the “security and military levels as well as in relation to the issue of mobilization ... targets and the scope of the conflict.”
Nasrallah’s speech came as Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Palestinian factions would pay a price for firing missiles into Israel and the Israeli military said it was given the green light to call up 30,000 reservist troops for any possible expansion of the operation against Gaza.
The Associated Press reported that at least a dozen trucks carrying tanks and armored vehicles were seen late Thursday moving toward the border area with Palestinian territory, while buses ferried soldiers. Media agencies also reported intensive air raids by Israel’s air force into Gaza.
The leader of Hezbollah, one of Israel’s principal foes in the region, said the successful targeting of Israel’s commercial center by Palestinian factions might indicate the Jewish state had overestimated its success at striking targets in Gaza.
“Did [Israel] fall into the same problem it did in the August [2006 war] when it struck targets it thought were [Hezbollah’s] rocket launch sites and announced victory by claiming that [the resistance’s] medium and long-range missiles had been destroyed but that later turned out to be false?” he asked.
“Did the same take place in Gaza? This is possible,” he added.
The fighting between the Jewish state and Palestinians escalated Wednesday to levels unseen since Israel’s previous assault on Gaza in 2008. The clashes erupted after Israel assassinated Hamas's military chief Ahmad al-Jaabari in an aerial attack that targeted his vehicle in the Strip.
Nasrallah paid his condolences to Hamas over the killing of Jaabari, who he described as a “martyr.”
"Jaabari was a great Jihadi leader. He had a great history in the resistance," he said.
He also praised Gaza’s victims and Palestinians, who he said were “confronting this continuous onslaught by Israel with their flesh and blood.”
The Hezbollah leader also urged Arab states to use their ties with the administration of President Barack Obama and other Western states to help end the conflict by pressuring Israel.
“No one is asking you [Arab states] to open your borders and begin the liberation of Palestine to end the aggression against Gaza. I am asking you to make use of your ties with the U.S. administration and Western states, which can put pressure on Israel [to halt the assault],” Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah said U.S. pressure on Israel would certainly halt Israeli actions.
“Any pressure or threat or a telephone call from the U.S. to Israel will end it,” he said.
He cited the region’s oil wealth as well as the weak economic conditions in the U.S and Europe as weapons that Arabs could use to help end the conflict.
"Decrease your oil exports and raise the price. You know there are states in Europe where if the price of oil increases their economies would collapse,” he said.
“The same applies to the United States which is facing difficulties at the present time ... reduce exports of oil, the price will go up a little and you will shake the United States, you will shake Europe,” he added.
The Hezbollah chief said it was too early to foretell the likely course of the conflict but expressed confidence in Palestinian factions to overcome the Israeli assault.
“From the start to the end, our wager ... is on the will of the people in Gaza and resistance, its steadfastness and solidarity ... and what gives us optimism is that we all know that in Gaza there is a resistance that has wisdom, courage and developed human and material resources that enable it to take part in a decisive and dangerous confrontation of this caliber,” he said. – With AP