Hizbullah possesses sophisticated weapons to deny Israel air superiority over Lebanon, retired Lebanese army Gen. Elias Hanna said after Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah promised Israel a “big surprise” if it attacked Lebanon.
In a speech marking the first anniversary of the cease-fire that ended the Israel-Hizbullah war Aug. 14, Nasrallah warned Israel against striking Lebanon.
“You Zionists, If you think of launching an aggression against Lebanon, I won’t promise you surprises like those that have happened, but I promise you a big surprise that could change the course of war and the destiny of the region, God willing,” Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah did not elaborate on his threat but reiterated that his group possessed long-range rockets that could reach deep into Israel. Nasrallah has earlier said Hizbullah possesses 33,000 rockets.
His comments have not been independently confirmed, and the number and type of weapons Hizbullah owns are not known.
The U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended the war a year ago demands that Hizbullah disarm and prohibits the group from receiving arms shipments.
But Hizbullah has refused to lay down its arms, saying the weapons were needed to defend Lebanon against Israeli threats.
Retired army Gen. Elias Hanna told The Associated Press that he believes Nasrallah’s speech shows that Hizbullah possesses thousands of advanced anti-aircraft missiles.
“Israel has air superiority. So Hizbullah must act to deny Israel this superiority by using advanced anti-aircraft missiles,” Hanna said.
He said that in addition to Hizbullah’s possession of long-range missiles, “there is a possibility that Hizbullah may have some sleeper cells inside Israel that could be activated in the event of war.”
He also warned that Hizbullah could have sleeper cells abroad, though the militant group has denied this allegation.
In Israel, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said while there has been an improvement in security situation on Israel’s northern border, concerns still remain.
“We are concerned, however, as to continued attempts of Hizbullah to rearm. Specifically, we are concerned that there is a flow of illicit weapons from Iran and Syria to Hizbullah in direct violation of the U.N. resolution, and we believe the international community should act against countries who by continuing to supply weaponry to Hizbullah are acting to undermine a U.N. security council resolution,” Regev said.
Israeli Cabinet Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer also said he recommended taking Nasrallah’s comments seriously.
“Nasrallah has never lied. He is cocky, he is arrogant, but at least from our experience with him, to my regret, what he has said, he has done. And when he says ‘I have 20,000 missiles’ I believe him,” Ben-Eliezer told Israel’s Army Radio on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council expressed “grave concern” at reports of arms smuggling to Lebanon, but dropped a direct call to Syria and Iran, Hizbullah’s main allies, to enforce the U.N. arms embargo.
The council also voiced “deep concern” about recent statements by Nasrallah “that it retains the military capacity to strike all parts of Israel.”
The war erupted on July 12, 2006, when Hizbullah fighters crossed the border into Israel and attacked an Israeli patrol, killing three soldiers and capturing two. More than 1,000 Lebanese and 159 Israelis were killed in the war.(AP-Naharnet)