Hezbollah chief warns Israel against continuing strikes in Syria

Hassan Nasrallah, the chief of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, did not discount the possibility of a retaliation in the form of air strikes on Tel Aviv. (AP)
Updated 27 January 2019
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Hezbollah chief warns Israel against continuing strikes in Syria

  • In the latest strikes nearly a week ago 21 people were killed, the majority of them Iranians
  • Israel has warned it will continue to target positions in Syria held by Iran and its ally Hezbollah

BEIRUT: The chief of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement has warned Israel against continuing strikes in Syria targeting mainly Iranian positions, saying it could fuel war in the region.
Israel’s army has since 2013 claimed hundreds of attacks on what it says are Iranian military targets and arms deliveries to Tehran-backed Hezbollah, with the goal of stopping its main enemy Iran from entrenching itself militarily in neighboring Syria.
In the latest strikes nearly a week ago 21 people were killed, the majority of them Iranians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.
Addressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly, Hassan Nasrallah said Saturday in an interview with Al-Mayadeen television: “Don’t make an error of judgment and don’t lead the region toward war or a major clash.”
“At any moment the Syrian leadership and the axis of resistance can take a decision to deal with the Israeli aggression in a different manner,” he said, referring to the alliance between Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, Iran and its ally Hezbollah.
When asked whether a retaliation could take the form of air strikes on Tel Aviv, Nasrallah said “anything is possible,” adding that Hezbollah possessed “high-precision missiles” capable of hitting anywhere in Israel.
The Israeli army announced the strikes against facilities it said belonged to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force on Monday as they were occurring.
It said they were in response to a medium-range missile the Quds Force fired from Syria at the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Sunday, which Israeli air defenses intercepted.
Israel has caried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria and its warplanes have been targeted by anti-aircraft fire during such raids, but it has rarely faced surface-to-surface missile fire in response.
Israel has warned it will continue to target positions in Syria held by Iran and its ally Hezbollah.
Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have been speaking more openly about the country’s strikes in Syria in recent days, which some analysts partly attribute to the premier wanting to burnish his security credentials ahead of April 9 elections.
Others say it carries a strategic military purpose as well by sending a stronger message.
But Israel also risks an escalation with Syria and Iran, as well as possibly further angering Russia at a time when the United States is seeking to withdraw its forces from Syria.
In Saturday’s rare television interview — which was more than three hours long — Nasrallah also said that Israel took “years” to discover cross-border tunnels from Lebanon.
“The Israelis discovered a number of tunnels after many years, and it’s not a surprise, the surprise is that these tunnels, they took some time to find,” he said.
Earlier this month Israel concluded an operation to unearth and destroy tunnels which the army accused Hezbollah of digging across the border from Lebanon.
“Yes, there are tunnels in southern Lebanon,” Nasrallah said, in his first comments on the issue since Israel announced the operation on December 4.
The Hezbollah leader refused to specify whether they were built before the 2006 war between the militia group and Israel, or who had constructed them.
The month-long war killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.


Turkey bans rally for Kurdish MP on hunger strike

A member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) reacts next to policemen during a demonstration in solidarity with a HDP lawmaker on hunger strike in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, on February 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 45 min 12 sec ago
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Turkey bans rally for Kurdish MP on hunger strike

  • Ocalan, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: Turkish police on Friday prevented supporters from rallying outside the home of a pro-Kurdish lawmaker on hunger strike for 100 days.
The protest bid coincides with the 20th anniversary of the capture of Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is jailed in a notorious prison island near Istanbul.
Leyla Guven of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), launched her action on Nov. 8 while in jail to protest against Ocalan’s prison conditions.
She was freed last month under judicial supervision but continued her protest, refusing any treatment. Guven, 55, is consuming only sugared or salted water.
Police on Friday blocked supporters from approaching Guven’s house in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir after a rally called by the HDP, an AFP correspondent said.
“The biggest task ahead of us today is to turn every aspect of life into an arena for struggle and support hunger strikes at the highest level,” HDP MP Dilan Dirayet Tasdemir said.
“This dark picture and severe conditions of fascism can only be broken through our organized struggle,” Tasdemir said.
More than 200 prisoners are on hunger strike to protest what they call Ocalan’s isolation, according to the HDP.
Ocalan, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
Ocalan was caught in Kenya outside the Greek Embassy in Nairobi on Feb. 15, 1999 by Turkish secret service agents after attempting to seek asylum in Europe.
Turkish authorities last month allowed Ocalan’s brother Mehmet to see him, the first visit in over two years.