Hezbollah vows to “surprise Israel” during any upcoming war, upping the war of words between the Lebanese Shi’ite terror group and Israel.In an interview with Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV channel on the 11th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, the head of the group’s Executive Council Sayyed Hashem Safieddine said that Hezbollah has been changing and developing new military capabilities.According to Safieddine, who oversees Hezbollah’s social and economic activities and was added to the United States counterterrorism blacklist in March, Israeli reports on Hezbollah’s weaponry are “inaccurate as the enemy intelligence agencies can never reach veracious data in this context.”Israel fought against Hezbollah in the 34-day Second Lebanon War in 2006. Since then hostilities between them have been limited to occasional firing across the border and reported air strikes by Israel against Hezbollah leaders and military equipment in Syria, where the group is fighting in support of President Bashar Assad.Last week Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said that the IDF has used the time since the Second Lebanon War to dramatically improve its abilities and now has better intelligence and operational capabilities than ever before.According to Eisenkot, Hezbollah’s rockets are not particularly accurate at the moment and Israelis “should put things in perspective and not panic” regarding reports that Iran has helped Hezbollah to operate and manage underground weapons factories.
Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Eisenkot said that “decreasing Iranian influence in the areas near Israel’s borders is no less important than defeating Islamic State, and for Israel perhaps even more.”Last March, the Kuwaiti Al-Jarida newspaper cited an unnamed deputy head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as saying that Hezbollah has operated and managed underground weapons factories set up by the IRGC in response to alleged Israeli strikes against weapons convoys in Syria. According to the report, the factories can produce missiles with a range of over 500 kilometers as well as surfaceto- air and antitank missiles as well as unmanned aerial vehicles able to carry explosives.A recent report by the French web magazine Intelligence Online identified the locations of two of the factories as well as the type of munitions they produce.According to the report, one underground facility located near Hermel in northeastern Lebanon produces the Fateh- 110 rocket which can carry half-ton warheads and is relatively accurate with a range of 300 kilometers, covering the majority of Israel.The second facility, located near the Mediterranean coast between the cities of Tyre and Sidon in southern Lebanon manufactures smaller munitions.At a briefing with journalists last week Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah was a redline for Israel, which will continue to act to prevent the group from getting them.“We take everything seriously. We are certainly aware of the reports and we will do what needs to be done. This is a significant phenomenon and we cannot ignore it. Precise weapons such as these missiles are a challenge. Compared to past wars they will hit deep inside Israeli territory,” Liberman said.
Hezbollah says future Israel war could draw more fighters than in 2006 (credit: REUTERS)