Lebanon's Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The entire State of Israel is within range of Hezbollah’s missiles, the group’s deputy secretary-general Sheikh Naim Qassem said on Sunday.
“There is not a single point in the occupied territories out of reach of Hezbollah’s missiles,” Qassem told al-Vefagh – an Iranian Arabic-language newspaper and news website, adding that: “the Zionists cannot tolerate such a high level of threats in confrontation with Hezbollah, which is why they have no motive for entering another war with Lebanon.”
According to Qassem, the Shi’ite Lebanese group created deterrence which has prevented Israel from taking any action against Lebanon since 2006.
“Even when they threaten they say, ‘If Hezbollah attacks us’ they will react, because the rules of engagement created in Lebanon by Hezbollah have made it very difficult for Israel to even consider launching a war against Lebanon,” he said.
Last week, Israel launched Operation Northern Shield
to uncover and destroy tunnels dug by Hezbollah into Israeli territory. At least three cross-border attack tunnels built by the group into Israeli territory have been discovered by the IDF along the northern border, including one outside the Galilee Panhandle town of Metulla.
A senior IDF officer told reporters that the tunnel, which burrowed 40 meters inside Israeli territory but was not yet operational, would have been used by the group’s elite Radwan unit
to cut off Metulla from Route 90 and kill as many civilians and troops as possible.
A second tunnel, beginning in the Lebanese village of Ramiyeh and crossing near Moshav Zar’it in the Ma’ale Yosef Regional Council, was identified by the IDF on Thursday
. The IDF asked UN peacekeeping troops from UNIFIL to work with the Lebanese Armed Forces to destroy the shaft.
On Saturday night, the IDF announced that a third tunnel was discovered and that explosives have been placed in it in preparation for neutralization. The IDF hasn’t yet disclosed the tunnel’s location.
The Israeli military believes that the tunnel infiltrations were meant to be used by Hezbollah as a surprise component of the next war alongside a mass salvo of rockets, missiles and mortar shells launched towards Israel.
The group, which is referred to as an army by most experts, has amassed an arsenal of an estimated 130,000-150,000 short to long-range rocket and missiles since the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Thousands of them are expected to be launched towards the Jewish state by the Iranian-backed Shi’ite army within the first couple of hours of a future conflict.
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Hezbollah only has several dozen precision-guided missiles.
“Hezbollah has two tools [of attack]. One tool is tunnels, and we are depriving them of that. The other weapon is rockets, an imprecise weapon, but they also want precision weapons. This radically changes the balance of power,” he said at an award ceremony for outstanding Mossad operatives at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
“According to Hezbollah’s plans, they were already supposed to be equipped with thousands of missiles, but right now they only have a few dozen [precision-guided missiles]. The reason that they only have a few dozen is, among others, sitting here in this room,” Netanyahu said, alluding to the participation of Mossad agents in thwarting the group from having the technology to build such weapons.
Israel, which has been carrying out air strikes against Hezbollah weapons convoys and Iranian targets in Syria, has warned that it will not allow the group to acquire precision weapons which would threaten the Jewish state.
In September Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly that there were several sites in the Lebanese capital of Beirut where he said Hezbollah has been attempting to convert ground-to-ground missiles to precision missiles.
“Israel knows what you are doing, Israel knows where you are doing it, and Israel will not let you get away with it,” Netanyahu said, while holding a placard with three different sites in the Lebanese capital accusing Hezbollah of “deliberately using the innocent people of Beirut as human shields.”
The launching of Operation Northern Shield comes amid renewed focus on Iran’s activity in Lebanon after allegations that an Iranian plane carrying weapons for Hezbollah landed at the Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport.
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