Published Friday, January 30, 2015
“Don’t try us,” Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah told Israel in a televised speech Friday broadcast during a memorial ceremony to honor the six Hezbollah fighters and the Iranian general killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria earlier this month.
On January 18, an Israeli helicopter airstrike on the Syrian city of Quneitra near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights killed six fighters of Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah, including a commander, Mohammed Abu Issa, and the son of assassinated senior commander Imad Mughniyeh, as well as Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Mohammed Ali Allahdadi.
Hezbollah has been fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad in Syria against rebels in the nearly four-year Syrian conflict.
According to Nasrallah, who spoke for an hour and a half, Israel had “planned, calculated and took a premeditated decision to assassinate” the fighters, saying that the motive behind the attack was crystal clear.
Hezbollah’s chief said that while Israel isn’t worried about thousands of armed militants from the al-Nusra Front — al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria — near territories it occupies, the Zionist state “was scared on January 18 of six unarmed Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian in civilian vehicles.”
Observers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) confirmed in a report published in December documenting cooperation and coordination between the Israeli army and militant groups in Syria.
The UNDOF report said that observers witnessed several meetings between rebel leaders and Israeli army forces between December 2013 and March 2014, in addition to witnessing the transportation of injured militants to Israeli hospitals following confrontations between the militants and the Syrian army near the occupied Golan border.
Nasrallah said that those killed in the Quneitra attack showed a “fusion of Lebanese-Iranian blood on Syrian soil, and reflects the unity of the cause and the unity of the fate of the countries in the axis of resistance.”
“When the blood of Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians and Iranians unites, we will enter an era of triumph,” he added.
The deaths of Allahdadi and Issa revealed that commanders were present on the ground alongside fighters, Nasrallah said, adding that Jihad Mughniyeh’s death showed how entire families and not just individual members were joining the resistance.
Nasrallah extended his condolences to the families of the Hezbollah fighters as well as the families of the eight Lebanese soldiers who were killed last week in clashes with al-Nusra Front militants in the area of Tallet al-Hamra near Ras Baalbek on the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Nasrallah’s remarks came two days after Hezbollah claimed responsibility for an attack against an Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) convoy in Israeli-occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms that left a number of Israeli soldiers dead.
According to Israeli figures, two soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded, although Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar news channel said the toll was much higher.
“They killed us in broad daylight, we kill them in broad daylight … they struck two of our vehicles, we targeted two of their vehicles,” Nasrallah said, likening the Quneitra strike to the one by Hezbollah in Shebaa.“The only difference is that we announced that Israel struck our fighters in Quneitra half an hour after the attack, whereas the Israelis didn’t,” Nasrallah continued, adding that the number of casualties on the Israeli side was “debatable.”
The Shebaa Farms area is a mountainous, narrow sliver of land rich in water resources measuring 25 square kilometers (10 square miles). It has been illegally occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war, although Lebanon has never ceased to call for its restitution.
Israel occupied most of southern Lebanon for 22 years until 2000 and the two countries are still technically at war.
“The Israelis can’t kill our people and then go to sleep … their farmers can’t stay in their fields and their soldiers can’t stroll up and down the border as if they merely killed mosquitoes,” Nasrallah said, asserting that the Zionist state would pay a price for all of its criminal actions even if that meant going to war with Israel.
“We don’t want war but we are not afraid of going to war,” Nasrallah assured. “I think the Shebaa attack was a clear message … Israel was humiliated on Wednesday.”
Nasrallah said Hezbollah would retaliate against any future Israeli attacks on its members “whenever, however and wherever,” adding that the Hezbollah “no longer cares about the rules of engagement anymore.”“Don’t try us,” Nasrallah defiantly said to Israel.
Since the January 18 airstrike, troops and civilians in northern Israeli-occupied territories of Palestine and the occupied Golan Heights have been on heightened alert and Israel has deployed an Iron Dome rocket interceptor unit near the Syrian border.
“Israelis have been on edge ever since they targeted our fighters in Quneitra,” Nasrallah stated.
Following Wednesday’s attack, Israeli forces hit several Lebanese villages along the border, killing a 36-year-old UN peacekeeper.
Israeli warplanes routinely violate Lebanon’s airspace and have launched several attacks against Syrian targets in recent months, some reportedly carried out from over Lebanon.
On Thursday, Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA), said Israeli fighter jets penetrated deep into Lebanese airspace, startling residents as the jets flew over the capital Beirut. Israeli jets were also seen flying over southern Lebanese towns.
Nasrallah said Israel has violated Lebanese’ sovereignty and the 1701 UN resolution “thousands of times” and “on daily basis.”
Moreover, Nasrallah slammed the Arab League as “nonexistent” when it came to fighting Israel and supporting Palestinians, saying the 22-member league has served Israel more than the Palestinians. He gave the 51-day Israeli summer assault on Gaza that left 2,300 Palestinians dead as an example of the Arab League’s failure.
Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said Wednesday’s attack was the “most severe” Israel had faced since 2006, when its war with Hezbollah killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and some 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.