Lebanon News

Hezbollah doesn’t expect Israeli war, but is ready for one

BEIRUT: Hezbollah does not expect its arch-foe Israel to launch a war for now in Lebanon but remains prepared for one, party Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem told Reuters Thursday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned last month that Israel would not allow Iran to put a “noose of terror” around its neck and it could act not just against Iran’s proxies, but Iran itself.

Israeli and U.S. officials have claimed that Iran is helping Hezbollah build factories to manufacture precision-guided missiles or refit its longer-range missiles with precision guidance systems.

Asked about the Israeli accusations, Qassem said he would not comment on Hezbollah’s military capabilities, deployments or plans.

“We don’t talk about the military details, be it our capabilities or those of our allies, or our deployments because they are secrets that we retain and we don’t want to give a free gift to our enemy,” he said.

Hezbollah “is ready to confront the aggression if it happens, if Israel decides to carry out any foolish action,” he said. “But it does not appear that the circumstances are for an Israeli decision for war.”

“We have declared repeatedly and frequently that we, as the resistance, work to have permanent readiness and we are ready to confront the Israeli aggression if it happens, and therefore we are ready to defend ourselves by all available means.”

“We are working to fortify our front, and to be ready.”

Israel and Lebanon last openly clashed in 2006 with the devastating 34-day war. However, Israel has mounted numerous airstrikes in Syria against what it has described as Hezbollah and Iranian targets after the party intervened to back the embattled regime of Bashar Assad.

As the war in Syria enters its eighth year, Qassem said there was no end in sight to the conflict that would go on for at least two more years and Assad could not be forced out of an eventual settlement.

“There is no solution in Syria under the title of ‘excluding President Assad.’ On the contrary, the solution in Syria is with President Assad, and he is the mandatory channel for the solution,” Qassem said.

In Syria he said it was possible Israel would conduct further “limited” attacks. “The Syrian regime has taken the decision to respond to this type of attack,” he said.

Qassem said that Hezbollah would stay in Syria as long as necessary. “If we reach a political solution, of course, Hezbollah will return to Lebanon.”

Assad and his allies had won the war by defeating what he described as a U.S.-led plot to destroy Syria, he added.

“Syria has won the military battle, which will help them to win the political battle,” he said.

While Assad’s rule is no longer in danger, international powers vie over large areas of Syria.

Qassem, however, did not expect the Syria war to lead to a direct confrontation between major powers.

“It is clear that all the parties and their allies view that it is in their interests not to have a direct confrontation between America and Russia, and they have rules of engagement that they have studied together and are abiding by,” he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 16, 2018, on page 2.

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