Hezbollah is working with Hamas to develop military ties and deepen Hamas's control of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned during a state ceremony Tuesday commemorating Israeli soldiers who fell in the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
The Second Lebanon War broke out on July 12, 2006, when Hezbollah launched rockets and mortars at IDF positions and Israeli towns near the border with Lebanon, while simultaneously infiltrating into Israel and ambushing IDF soldiers.
"Even though we left Lebanon many years ago, it seems that it will not leave us," said Gantz. "Lebanon of 2022 is more unsettled than ever before. The murderous terrorist organization Hezbollah continues to sicken every good lot in a land whose people became a long time ago hostages of the zero-sum game conducted by Iran against the region in general, and especially against Israel."
The defense minister added that Nasrallah and other officials in Lebanon had increased their cooperation with Hamas officials and had agreed on ways to deepen Hamas's hold on Palestinian refugee camps in the country.
"In these meetings, they also deal with developing military cooperation between themselves," said Gantz. "The statements and actions of [Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan] Nasrallah create fertile ground for the development of Palestinian terrorism from Lebanon, endanger the residents of Lebanon and could lead to situations in which control is lost that will lead to a powerful response by the IDF, which is preparing for this and is able to carry this out at any stage.
Last month, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met with Nasrallah and other Lebanese officials in Beirut. During the meeting with Nasrallah, the two discussed the development of ties between Iranian-backed groups in the region and cooperation between the groups concerning Jerusalem and the Palestinians.
A number of isolated rocket launches from Lebanon towards northern Israel in the past year have been blamed on Palestinian groups operating in the country, including Hamas.
"Lebanon will pay the price for actions carried out from within its territory."Defense Minister Benny Gantz
During his speech on Tuesday, Gantz warned that "Sadly, even though Lebanon is not Hezbollah and its citizens are the main victims of Hezbollah's stranglehold on the south of the country and its unending armament in its territory, Lebanon will pay the price for actions carried out from within its territory."
The defense minister also addressed US President Joe Biden's upcoming visit to Israel and news that a US drone strike had killed a senior ISIS leader in northern Syria.
"Terrorism is a disease that must be fought all the time - continuously, and with great intensity. This is what we are doing against Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, and so are our American friends, who killed one of ISIS's senior leaders in Syria tonight," said Gantz, adding that the US "has repeatedly demonstrated that its presence and influence are vital to the stability of the Middle East, and that its long arm is working against terrorism - wherever it raises its head."
President Itzhak Herzog also warned of Hezbollah's actions in the region on Tuesday, saying "as we have seen in recent weeks, Hezbollah is constantly operating in various arenas, and Iran continues to be a ticking time bomb."
"It is no secret that Iran's desire, for its satellites, is to stir up spirits and destabilize the Middle East. As the Second Lebanon War proved - we will always defend ourselves to the fullest, and whoever tries us will encounter a fist of steel," said Herzog.
Nasrallah is set to speak on Wednesday evening at 8:35 p.m. about the "latest political developments," as Biden conducts his visit in Israel.
Parliamentarian warns Lebanon will defend marine resources
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri addressed ongoing indirect maritime border demarcation negotiations between Lebanon and Israel during a statement marking the anniversary of the Second Lebanon War on Tuesday.
“July 12, 2006 was a victory point for Lebanon, and a new defeat for the Zionist aggression, aborting its new-old project aimed at keeping Lebanon a war-distortion on the sidewalk of the region's crises," said Berri, according to Lebanon's National News Agency (NNA).
Berri called on the international community to "put pressure at the political and security levels" on Israel in order to "curbing its aggression and ensuring it complies with the relevant international resolutions."
"In parallel, we affirm, in the name of Lebanon, in which the army, people and resistance formula was victorious, that we will totally defend our marine and land resources," added Berri.
Berri's statements come just over a week after Hezbollah launched a total of four drones towards the Karish natural gas rig in two separate incidents. The drones were shot down and did not pose a threat to the gas rig, according to the IDF.
Last week, Lebanese President Michel Aoun stated that a solution regarding the maritime border demarcation negotiations with Israel would be reached soon, saying "I believe that we have reached an understanding with the Americans who are mediators between us and Israel," according to Lebanese media.
"The results of the demarcation will be positive for the benefit of both parties, and if the atmosphere was not positive, we would not have followed the negotiation process," added Aoun.
Lebanese officials have expressed outrage at Hezbollah's launching of drones towards the gas field, stressing that the country is committed to avoiding provocations during negotiations.
"Lebanon considers that any action outside the framework of the state's responsibility and the diplomatic context in which the negotiations are happening is unacceptable and exposes (Lebanon) to unnecessary risks," a statement by the office of Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati office said on Monday.
Lebanese, US forces launch maritime exercise
On Tuesday, the Lebanese Naval Forces and US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) announced a two-week joint maritime exercise called Resolute Union 2022. The exercise which has been conducted annually for 22 years, focuses on maritime security operations, mine countermeasures and explosive ordnance disposal.
“Despite all the challenges facing the LAF this year in the context of Lebanon’s economic crisis, they have shown extraordinary commitment and the United States will continue to offer our full support to all their efforts,” said US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea.