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Lebanon News

Nasrallah vows to strike Tel Aviv if Lebanon hit

Mourners mark Ashoura in Beirut’s southern suburbs. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has warned Israel that thousands of rockets would rain down on Tel Aviv and other cities if the Jewish state attacked Lebanon.

In a televised speech commemorating Ashoura Sunday, Nasrallah warned Israel against trying to regain momentum following what he said was its “defeat” in the Gaza Strip.

His speech came four days after an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire ended eight days of ferocious fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza, during which Palestinian factions lobbed missiles that hit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Some 166 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed in the fighting.

“Israel, which was shaken by a handful of Fajr-5 rockets during eight days – how would it cope with thousands of rockets which would fall on Tel Aviv and other [cities] ... if it attacked Lebanon?” Nasrallah said, drawing cheers from thousands of Hezbollah’s supporters assembled at Al-Raya Stadium in Beirut’s southern suburbs. The crowd, including women and children, was dressed in black marking Ashoura, the day when the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussein was killed in battle 13 centuries ago.

“If the confrontation in the Gaza Strip, given its blockade, included missiles with a range of 40 to 70 kilometers, the battle with us will range over the whole of occupied Palestine [Israel] – from the Lebanese border to the Jordanian border and the Red Sea,” Nasrallah said, speaking through a huge screen via video link.

“From Kiryat Shmona to Eilat,” he added, referring to Israel’s northernmost town on the Lebanese border to the Red Sea port furtherest south.

Nasrallah has in the past warned that Tel Aviv would be targeted with rockets in any future war with Israel.

The Fajr-5s, with a range of 75 km (45 miles) – able to strike Tel Aviv or Jerusalem – and 175 kg warheads, are the most powerful and long-range rockets to have been fired from Gaza.

Nasrallah, who heads the March 8 coalition, reiterated Hezbollah’s willingness to attend a new session of National Dialogue which President Michel Sleiman has been trying to convene in an attempt to resolve the political crisis sparked by last month’s assassination of police intelligence chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan.

However, Future bloc MPs hit back at Nasrallah, saying his speech did not contain anything new concerning the National Dialogue.

The opposition March 14 parties have demanded the government’s resignation before attending any Dialogue session with the Hezbollah-led March 8 bloc.

“We are ready to respond to [Sleiman’s] invitation for [National] Dialogue on Nov. 29 but we reject conditions by anyone with regard to Dialogue and those being pompous [toward us on this matter],” Nasrallah said.

He added that his party wanted to prevent any Sunni-Shiite strife in Lebanon following the sectarian tension stoked by the 20-month-old bloody conflict in Syria.

He also said that his party did not consider the March 14 parties as “enemies but merely as political rivals.”

“We do not see any Lebanese party as an enemy but a rival ... our only enemy is Israel,” Nasrallah said, adding that his party was keen on preserving civil peace in the country.

He warned against attempts to “portray Israel as the friend and Iran as the enemy,” saying the Islamic Republic was the true friend of Arabs and Muslims.

On the conflict in Syria, Nasrallah said Hezbollah supported all “oppressed people around the world,” and described Syria with all its people and army as oppressed.

“Victory in Syria today requires an end to the fighting, bloodshed, destruction and everything that is happening there ... Syria as a whole is a target,” he said.

“Sayyed Nasrallah tried to tell [March 14 parties] that you must come to Dialogue under my own conditions and you must come subdued,” MP Ammar Houri told Al-Sharq radio station. He reiterated the March 14 stance that the solution to the political crisis lay with the government’s resignation.

Future MP Atef Majdalani called on Hezbollah to put its arms aside and sit equally with March 14 politicians at the Dialogue table.

“Dialogue is not possible between heavily armed people and unarmed people. The one who is being pompous is Hezbollah, which accuses others of treason,” Majdalani told Future TV. “We are ready for dialogue but on condition of equality, and let them put their arms in the custody of the Lebanese state.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 27, 2012, on page 3.

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