(photo credit: Channel 1 [file])
The leader of the Hizbullah Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said Thursday that his organization has grown stronger as Israel has weakened.
Nasrallah's comments came a day after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reported Israeli claims that Hizbullah has rearmed with new long-range rockets capable of hitting the Jewish capital.
"The resistance today is stronger than before and Israel is weaker," Nasrallah said during the opening of an agricultural fair in Beirut's southern suburb of Rweis organized by Hizbullah construction arm, Jihad al-Bina. Nasrallah was not present but spoke to hundreds of supporters using a giant screen.
"We don't want war with anyone, but at the same time, we will not allow anyone to attack our villages, people and country," Nasrallah added. Hizbullah's Al-Manar television aired excerpts of his speech during the station's evening broadcast.
His comments came ahead of a military exercise Israel has scheduled this week in the northern portion of the country near Lebanon. The exercise is slated to be the largest Israeli military maneuver since the Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hizbullah last year.
On Wednesday, Ban said in a report that "Israel has stated that the nature and number of weapons in Hizbullah's control constitutes a strategic threat to its security and the safety of its citizens."
Ban said that Israel also claims that Hizbullah has tripled its shore-to-sea C-802 missiles and has established an air defense unit armed with ground to air missiles.
Nasrallah did not comment on Ban's report or provide details on how Hizbullah has strengthened. Last year after the war ended, he said his group had been rearming since Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000 and possessed more than 33,000 rockets.
Nasrallah warned that no one will be allowed "to stain Lebanon's lands, which will not be a land for Israeli occupation or American military bases." He was referring to a report by Lebanon's daily As-Safir newspaper last month that said Washington was proposing a treaty with Lebanon that would make it a strategic partner and lead to the creation of American bases in the country.
The Western-backed Lebanese government and the US embassy denied the report.