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.


US puts up $10m reward for Hezbollah information

Updated 21 min 16 sec ago
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US puts up $10m reward for Hezbollah information

  • The money is for anyone who provides intelligence that allows the US to disrupt Hezbollah in key ways

WASHINGTON: The US on Monday offered a $10 million reward for information that would disrupt the finances of Lebanon’s Shiite militant movement Hezbollah.
The State Department said it would give the money to anyone who provides intelligence that allows the US to disrupt Hezbollah in key ways.
The areas include information on Hezbollah’s donors, on financial institutions that assist its transactions and on businesses controlled by the movement.
President Donald Trump’s administration has put a top priority on reducing the influence of Iran, the primary backer of Hezbollah.
The State Department listed three alleged Hezbollah financiers as examples of activities it was seeking to stop, with one, Ali Youssef Charara, allegedly funding the group by investing millions of dollars from Hezbollah in the telecommunications industry in West Africa.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has pointed to a recent appeal by Hezbollah for donations as a sign of US success in curbing Iran.
On a visit last month to Beirut, Pompeo urged Lebanon to counter the “dark ambitions” of Iran and Hezbollah but was rebuffed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who said Hezbollah was not a terrorist group and enjoyed a wide base.
The United States has vowed for decades to fight Shiite militants in Lebanon, with memories still bitter over the 1983 attack on a military barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans.
Hezbollah, however, also functions as a political party, with posts in the current cabinet, and enjoys support among some Lebanese who recall its guerrilla campaign that led Israel to withdraw from the country in 2000.