BEIRUT: A top Hizbullah official this weekend said the party should remain “fully prepared” for a war, just days after diplomatic officials claimed Israel was unlikely to initiate hostilities anytime soon. Hizbullah’s number two, Sheikh Naim Qassem, said that although his party did not have any proof Israel was moving toward a war, it remained a belligerent state that Lebanon’s resistance must always be prepared to confront. “Israel is a real danger,” he told the Syrian television channel Addonnia. “We have to be in [a state of] constant preparedness.” Saudi newspaper Okaz meanwhile quoted on Saturday sources close to Hizbullah as saying that the party was “preparing” for a military confrontation after its officials had been advised to take precautionary measures.
His remarks come after the Lebanese newspaper Ad-Diyar on Friday quoted unidentified diplomatic sources as saying it “seemed unlikely” that Israel would launch another war on Lebanon or Lebanon and Syria in the near future.
But the Lebanese remain wary: Druze leader and head of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt on Saturday said the Middle East was in a state of chaos and argued such disarray worked in Israel’s favor. “The Israelis could launch a new war in the presence of such chaos,” he told the pan-Arab daily newspaper Ash-Sharq al-Awsat.
Hizbullah would remain armed so long as Israel remained a hostile state, Qassem said: “The resistance exists because of the presence of the enemy.”
Amos Gilad, director of Policy and Political Military Affairs at Israel’s Defense Ministry, on Friday said the country’s new anti-missile system would not be placed on the Gaza border as anticipated, but along the Blue Line border with Lebanon. “There are sectors other than the Gaza Strip that require the readiness of the missile shield, such as Lebanon’s sector,” he told Radio Israel. “In case deterrence fails, then we’ll have to think of the measures that should be taken.
Speaking at a graduation speech Sunday, Hizbullah official in southern Lebanon Sheikh Nabil Qawouk said the Iron Dome missile system would “be destroyed by the fist of the resistance.”
Antagonism between Israel and Lebanon has increased in recent months, with both sides hurling accusations of undermining stability. Apart from daily violations of its airspace, Beirut accuses Israel of running spy rings across the country, with the security forces apprehending several dozen people.
Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would target Lebanese civilian and government infrastructure in its next military offensive against Hizbullah. “If Israel is attacked, we will not limit ourselves to only Hizbullah targets,” Israel’s Haaretz newspaper quoted Barak as saying in an address to Israeli Army officials. He also repeated previous remarks that Tel Aviv would blame the Lebanese government for any Hizbullah strike, saying Beirut was “responsible for everything Hizbullah does.”
In late January Israeli minister without portfolio Yossi Peled said he thought another conflict with Lebanon was “only a matter of time,” prompting hawkish Premier Benjamin Netanyahu to deny his government was looking for a war.