Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, said Tuesday that his organization would not stand silent if Israel attacked the Lebanese army in the future.
The remarks came in a speech marking four years since the end of a war between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon, but mere hours after an exchange of fire between Israeli and Lebanese soldiers along the border left one Israeli officer and at least two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist dead. Another Israeli officer was seriously wounded in the confrontation.
"I say honestly, that in any place where the Lebanese army will be assaulted and there's a presence for the resistance, and it is capable, the resistance will not stand silent, or quiet or restrained," Nasrallah told tens of thousands of supporters via video link.
Addressing the 2006 Second Lebanon War, which ended in an United Nations Security Council resolution enacting a cease-fire, the Hezbollah leader said "Israel's aggression against Lebanon has not stopped, and what happened today only proves that. Since the cease-fire and until today Israel has blatantly violated [the UN Security Council resolution] more than 7,000 times, and no one has lifted a finger, not even the security council."
Nasrallah praised the Lebanese army, which fired at an Israeli observation post earlier in the day killing one officer and seriously wounding another, saying "the Lebanese army did what it was asked to do, and that is to sacrifice soldiers. Even the Lebanese media sacrificed one of its own."
He explained that Hezbollah was on highest alert during the incident. "I was personally in contact with the [Hezbollah] commanders in the area, and I asked them not to act before receiving a direct order. We announced that we would not initiate any activity as long as we did not receive authorization from the highest command of the Lebanese army. We contacted the army's commander and explained that we were ready to take action if they ask us to. We did what was needed in order to protect our sacred land," Nasrallah said.
The Hezbollah chief argued that he had displayed "extreme restraint" and refrained from taking action during the incident, for several reasons: "First, the army was overseeing the battle. Second, we didn't know where the situation could deteriorate to and third, we didn't want to be blamed for escalating tensions over the international tribunal on the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. We didn't want anyone to think we were motivated by Iranian or Syrian interests to spark conflict in the region."
"We were on high alert, but we took Lebanon's interests into account, so as to not play into the hands of people with agendas. But in the future, I say this clearly, if Israel raises its arm against the Lebanese army, we will make sure to cut off that arm and we will respond accordingly," he added.
According to Nasrallah, more than one million field mines and cluster bombs have been left behind in southern Lebanon by the Israeli military during the 2006 confrontation. "Despite four years of intensive operations, 200,000 bombs and mines have been neutralized so far. It will take enormous effort to complete the task," Nasrallah said.
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