Lebanon's Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hezbollah’s deputy secretary-general accused Israel of not being ready for a confrontation with Lebanon in an interview on Lebanese TV on Sunday.
Naim Qassem said that “Lebanon’s new government is a unity government,” and that only three of its government ministers are members of the Hezbollah terrorist organization. Qassem was responding to comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Hezbollah has infiltrated Lebanon with the support of Iran.
“Hezbollah joined the Lebanese government, and now it controls the government, and thus Iran controls it,” Netanyahu said while briefing a delegation of United Nations leaders, just before they headed to Israel’s northern border to inspect one of Hezbollah’s cross-border attack tunnels. The delegation is in Israel on a mission headed by Israel’s UN envoy Danny Danon.
Netanyahu then spoke about Operation Northern Shield, which ended three weeks ago: “Just as we stopped the tunnels, we will stop all acts of aggression from Lebanon, Syria or Iran.”
He said that the Hezbollah’s terror tunnels are a “flagrant violation of international law… The very fact that you arrived in Israel attests to your integrity. I hope that this will also characterize your future actions in the UN, which only last year pushed forth 20 resolutions against Israel, while only six against other countries, including Syria, Iran and Sudan.
“What matters is not only that you see the truth, but also that you tell it,” the prime minister continued. “We want to see you change your decisions.”
Last week, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah spoke out for the first time since Operation Northern Shield in a public interview with the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen station, first denying reports of his death.
“I am completely healthy and I do not suffer from anything,” he told the interviewer. “It’s funny to hear that I’m dead.”
Nasrallah said he made a strategic decision not to speak up until the end of Israel’s campaign against the terror tunnels, some of which stretched from Lebanon into Israeli territory.
He refused to accept responsibility for the construction of the tunnels between Lebanon and Israel: “The tunnels exist, they may be old or new, but it does not matter who dug them.”
He then threatened Israel: “I warn Israel, I do not want to enter their elections, but the Israelis must note that Netanyahu, and especially in recent weeks, is making a lot of mistakes in his assessment of many issues.”
The next day, the PM responded to Nasrallah’s statements by mocking the secretary-general and saying that the terror organization is “very embarrassed by our determination.”
“He and his men invested tremendous effort in the weapons tunnels, including excavating them, contrary to what he said in recent years and in recent months,” Netanyahu said, noting that within six weeks Israel managed to “completely deprive him of this weapon.”
Speaking at the start of last week’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu added that Nasrallah is “embarrassed by financial distress, and the policy we promoted to renew the sanctions against Iran is a policy adopted by President Donald Trump, which seriously harms the sources of funding for Iran and its satellites, especially Hezbollah.”