“We call on [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the new chief of staff to not make mistakes in their assessments. They’ll regret it,” said Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of the Lebanese political and paramilitary party Hezbollah.
“The price of aggression will be greater than they estimate,” said Nasrallah, speaking on Saturday night for the first time since the beginning of November.
“Any Israeli aggression, whether it is war or the assassination of Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon or Syria, we will respond to it.
Any attack or aggression is, in our view, a declaration of war.”
In an interview with the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen station, Nasrallah said that the tunnels in the North, which Israel targeted during its recent Operation Northern Shield, had existed for years and Israeli intelligence had not succeeded in uncovering them.
Nasrallah denied that he had not spoken up publicly for so long due to his poor health.
“All that is published are lies, which are disconnected from reality,” he said. “My heart, my head and my body are in good shape.” Nasrallah said that he chooses to speak “when there’s something to talk about.”
He said that he could have spoken up in the first few days of Operation Northern Shield, but that he left the propaganda campaign for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot.
“I did not want to help them with their campaign,” Nasrallah said. He noted that “even though they announced that Operation Northern Shield had ended, they continued until yesterday to search for tunnels, and Eisenkot took credit for an operation that has not yet ended.” He said he did not want to admit that Hezbollah dug the tunnels.
“Israel claims that Hezbollah dug them, and I do say there are tunnels in southern Lebanon, and they were exposed, but they were dug before the Lebanon War,” Nasrallah claimed. “It took Israelis a long time to expose them.”
He said Israeli intelligence failed for 14 years to expose these tunnels. “One of the tunnels discovered recently is 13 or 14 years old,” he said, “and was located entirely in Israeli territory, meaning all of Israel’s technology and capabilities failed to detect this tunnel.”
“I confirm that some of these tunnels are older than United National Security Council Resolution 1701,” he continued, noting that he would not confirm or deny whether or not all of the tunnels in northern Israel had been discovered. “My question to the settlers is how do they know that Netanyahu and their other leaders are correct when they say that all the tunnels have been destroyed?” Nasrallah excused Netanyahu for his ignorance – “Netanyahu is not a general” – but said Eisenkot should have been able to think militarily.
“Is it logical that Hezbollah would enter the Galilee with thousands of fighters through four tunnels?” Nasrallah said mockingly. “I do not know whether we will attack the Galilee by sea, air, land or tunnels.
All of Netanyahu’s goals failed, and he also helped us in the realm of psychological warfare. Netanyahu’s only achievement was to expose four tunnels. Eisenkot’s only achievement is an illusion.”
He continued, “I admit the enemy’s generals are smart, but sometimes their personal interests overcome their intelligence.”
Nasrallah said Hezbollah is taking all necessary measures to protect Lebanon in the face of threats by Israel.
He said that the terrorist organization has had the ability to conquer the Galilee for years.
“After our experience in Syria, entering the Galilee will be easier,” he said. “Even the fences Israel has set up – we have a solution for them.” He said it is in the organization’s war plan to invade the Galilee, but when and how will depend on Israel.
“If Israel attacks Lebanon, they will regret it,” he said.
“Our response will be one they never expected.” Nasrallah strongly attacked Netanyahu, claiming his impending indictment for corruption is leading the prime minister to falsely present himself as a hero. He accused Netanyahu of using the success of Operation Northern Shield to improve his situation in the courts.
“He is ready to sacrifice anything to remain prime minister and out of prison,” Nasrallah said. “We warn Israelis that this man, Netanyahu, could carry out many miscalculations between now and Election Day in order to save himself.” The interviewer asked why Nasrallah thinks Netanyahu chose to openly admit Israel’s recent attacks on Syria.
“Israel has failed intelligence in Syria,” the secretary-general said. “We must expect such an ill-advised move on the part of Netanyahu on the eve of the elections.”
Nasrallah added that he did not foresee Israel making a mistake with regard to Lebanon, but more likely with Syria or Gaza. He said a miscalculation in Gaza could push the people in the Strip too far.
“Gaza will not tolerate continued aggression,” he said.
“You saw what happened when one rocket from Gaza hit Ashkelon. Imagine if rockets started falling on Tel Aviv.
In a future war, all of occupied Palestine will be struck by our rockets.”
Nasrallah also spoke about US withdrawal from Syria and said US President Donald Trump’s decision led to a conflict between US allies and the Turkish army. However, he noted that Trump is a stronger president that former president Barack Obama.
“Obama spoke about human rights and Trump talks about American interests only,” he said.
The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew sister publication, Maariv, contributed to this report.