Hezbollah defies Israel, says has ‘precision missiles’

Hassan Nasrallah says his group may reduce the number of its fighters in Syria because of an easing of the conflict, particularly after a recent Russian-Turkey agreement that prevented an offensive on the last rebel stronghold. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Hezbollah defies Israel, says has ‘precision missiles’

  • Hezbollah is boasting it possesses ‘highly accurate’ missiles despite Israeli attempts to prevent it from acquiring such weapons
  • Israel worries Hezbollah has been improving its capabilities and increased its strikes in Syria to prevent weapons shipments to the group

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Hezbollah said Thursday it had acquired “precision missiles” despite extensive efforts by neighbor and foe Israel to prevent the movement developing this capability.
“It has been done. The resistance now owns precision missiles” as part of its weaponry, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address during the key Shiite commemoration of Ashura.
Israel this month acknowledged carrying out more than 200 strikes over the past 18 months in war-torn Syria, where Hezbollah fights alongside Iran in support of the Damascus regime.
Israel has said it is working to stop both Iran and Hezbollah from acquiring sophisticated arms.
“Attempts in Syria to block the way toward this (missile) capability” have failed, Nasrallah said.
“If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, it will face a fate that it never would have expected.”
Israel has fought several conflicts against Hezbollah, the last in 2006.
The Israeli military believes Hezbollah has between 100,000 and 120,000 short-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred longer-range missiles.
Late Monday, an Israeli raid hit Syria’s coastal province of Latakia to prevent what the Jewish state said were deliveries of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah.
The same evening Syrian air defenses downed a Russian military plane by mistake, killing all 15 on board.
Russia also backs Syria’s government militarily and it was the worst case of friendly fire between the two allies since Moscow intervened in the conflict in 2015.
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was “determined to stop Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and the attempts by Iran, which calls for the destruction of Israel, to transfer to Hezbollah lethal weaponry (to be used) against Israel.”
Nasrallah accused the Israelis of trying to kill him “day and night.” He has lived in a secret location for decades and rarely appears in public.
The Hezbollah chief also reiterated his support for Iran, after the United States withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal in May.
Washington reimposed sanctions on Tehran last month, and a new round of even harsher sanctions targeting Iran’s vital oil sector is set to go into effect in early November.
“It is our duty today to stand by Iran, who in a few weeks’ time will face a dangerous deadline — the start of American sanctions,” he said.
Nasrallah accused the United States of “going to all the world’s capitals in a bid to besiege” Iran, as Washington seeks support for its measures against the country.


Another Turkish journalist jailed over Gulen links

Ali Unal was chief writer at the now-defunct Zaman newspaper. (Supplied)
Updated 15 November 2018
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Another Turkish journalist jailed over Gulen links

  • About 250 people were killed in the coup attempt and in the subsequent crackdown, Turkey jailed 77,000 people pending trial

ISTANBUL: A court sentenced Turkish journalist Ali Unal to 19 years in jail on Wednesday on a charge of being a leader in the network accused of carrying out a failed coup in July 2016, the state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.
The ruling followed a sustained crackdown in the wake of the coup attempt, but also came amid steps by the government that appear aimed at improving ties with the US and Europe, strained by the sweeping campaign of arrests.
Unal was chief writer at the now-defunct Zaman newspaper, widely seen as the flagship media outlet for the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara says orchestrated the attempted putsch. Gulen denies any involvement.
Speaking by video link from jail to the court in the western province of Usak, Unal denied being a founder or leader of the network and denied involvement in the putsch, Anadolu said.
“I have no link with any terrorist organization,” he said, adding that he had spoken five or six times to Gulen and that he was being tried over his writing.
He was sentenced to 19 years and six months for “leading an armed terrorist group.” Six other Zaman journalists were convicted on similar charges in July.
About 250 people were killed in the coup attempt and in the subsequent crackdown, Turkey jailed 77,000 people pending trial. Authorities also sacked or suspended 150,000 civil servants and military personnel and shut down dozens of media outlets.Illustrating the scale of its actions, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday his ministry had dismissed 23 percent of its career personnel over links to Gulen.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said some journalists helped nurture terrorists with their writing, and that the crackdown is needed to ensure stability in a NATO member bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran. Critics say Erdogan has used the crackdown to muzzle dissent and increase his own power. The European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, has also criticized the crackdown. The verdict came a day after another court threw out the conviction of former Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak, annulling a verdict sentencing her to two years in prison in absentia on charges of carrying out propaganda for Kurdish militants.