Hezbollah chief warns Israel against continuing strikes in Syria

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BEIRUT, Jan 27, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – The chief of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement
has warned Israel against continuing strikes in Syria targeting mainly
Iranian positions, saying it could fuel war in the region.

Israel’s army has since 2013 claimed hundreds of attacks on what it says
are Iranian military targets and arms deliveries to Tehran-backed Hezbollah,
with the goal of stopping its main enemy Iran from entrenching itself
militarily in neighbouring Syria.

In the latest strikes nearly a week ago 21 people were killed, the
majority of them Iranians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory
for Human Rights monitor.

Addressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly, Hassan
Nasrallah said Saturday in an interview with al-Mayadeen television: “Don’t
make an error of judgement and don’t lead the region towards war or a major
clash.”

“At any moment the Syrian leadership and the axis of resistance can take a
decision to deal with the Israeli aggression in a different manner,” he said,
referring to the alliance between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s
government, Iran and its ally Hezbollah.

When asked whether a retaliation could take the form of air strikes on Tel
Aviv, Nasrallah said “anything is possible”, adding that Hezbollah possessed
“high-precision missiles” capable of hitting anywhere in Israel.

The Israeli army announced the strikes against facilities it said belonged
to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force on Monday as they were
occurring.

It said they were in response to a medium-range missile the Quds Force
fired from Syria at the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Sunday, which
Israeli air defences intercepted.

Israel has caried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria and its warplanes
have been targeted by anti-aircraft fire during such raids, but it has rarely
faced surface-to-surface missile fire in response.

– Risk of escalation –

Israel has warned it will continue to target positions in Syria held by
Iran and its ally Hezbollah.

Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have been speaking more openly about
the country’s strikes in Syria in recent days, which some analysts partly
attribute to the premier wanting to burnish his security credentials ahead of
April 9 elections.

Others say it carries a strategic military purpose as well by sending a
stronger message.

But Israel also risks an escalation with Syria and Iran, as well as
possibly further angering Russia at a time when the United States is seeking
to withdraw its forces from Syria.

In Saturday’s rare television interview — which was more than three hours
long — Nasrallah also said that Israel took “years” to discover cross-border
tunnels from Lebanon.

“The Israelis discovered a number of tunnels after many years, and it’s
not a surprise, the surprise is that these tunnels, they took some time to
find,” he said.

Earlier this month Israel concluded an operation to unearth and destroy
tunnels which the army accused Hezbollah of digging across the border from
Lebanon.

“Yes, there are tunnels in southern Lebanon,” Nasrallah said, in his first
comments on the issue since Israel announced the operation on December 4. The
Hezbollah leader refused to specify whether they were built before the 2006
war between the militia group and Israel, or who had constructed them.

The month-long war killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and
more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

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