Nasrallah: Israel may be preparing for war

Hizbullah leader questions five-day IDF exercise scheduled to start at the end of the month.

Nasrallah in armchair 22 (photo credit: AP)
Nasrallah in armchair 22
(photo credit: AP)
Less than three weeks before Lebanon's hotly contested election, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned his people on Monday night that a five-day IDF exercise scheduled to start at the end of the month could mean the Jewish state is preparing for "a new and unexpected war." While he said he had no information that indicated this was the case, he added that "it is a possibility that cannot be ignored." He spoke in a televised speech. Israeli officials talk of "unexpected reactions" when discussing such maneuvers with their people, "even though they know that at a minimum, no one will open a front by [firing] rockets or on the level of a wide and comprehensive military war," Nasrallah said. "So why are they speaking of this now?" he asked. "This gives the impression that Israel is preparing for a security or military attack on something, and assume that this aggression will lead to sudden and unpredictable reactions." Israeli diplomatic officials flatly rejected Nasrallah's hypothesis as internal political posturing. "These are pure fantasies taken right out of Nasrallah's beard to convince innocent Lebanese that he needs weapons to defend them against Israel rather than to dominate them," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. A spokesman for UNIFIL said on Saturday that the IDF exercise was of "a defensive nature" and "not related to any development or any future occurrences, including Lebanon," the Lebanese news site Naharnet reported. Nasrallah said during Monday's speech that Hizbullah planned to take "a set of preventive and precautionary measures" during the Israeli maneuvers to eliminate the opportunity for any military actions that targeted Lebanon. "We will be present, ready and alert" during the exercise, he said. The Hizbullah leader also criticized the Lebanese government, which "bears the responsibility" for safeguarding its people, for failure to act to protect them against such a scenario. At least one Western expert in Lebanon agrees that the speech was delivered for domestic political consumption ahead of the June 7 election, which is guaranteed to be a very close race. "I see this more as internal politics, attacking the government and reminding the electorate that Hizbullah is the only one safeguarding Lebanon from Israeli aggression and that the government is too powerless and weak and unwilling to do the right thing to defend it," the Western observer said. In his speech, Nasrallah also said that Israel, which was created by the "plunder [of land], massacres, displacement and occupation, is not a legitimate entity" and can never be legitimate in any way. Israel "is the main reason for all the wars and calamities... and tensions and crises in the region," he said.