Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday warned Lebanon that it, not Hezbollah, would be the target of retaliatory attacks should the militant group escalate tension along Israel's northern border.
"Lebanon grants Hezbollah permission to operate on its soil," said Barak. "We must clarify for the international community that we do not accept that a militia like Hezbollah exists in Lebanon, a sovereign country, and even sits in its parliament."
Barak added that it holds Lebanon responsible for any conflict with Hezbollah. "Hezbollah is not our target," in such a case, said Barak. "Our target will be the state of Lebanon."
Barak made his comments at a meeting with regional leaders in the north, where he stressed that he holds the Lebanese government responsible for any conflict along the border with Lebanon.
The defense minister added that Israel's deterrence power will last some time.
Barak also addressed peace talks with the Palestinians, saying that a two-state solution is the best formula for resolving the conflict, but stressed that a regional peace involving Syria is of utmost importance to Israel.
Earlier this month, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said Hezbollah guerrillas now possess tens of thousands of rockets, some capable of reaching up to 300 kilometers within Israel.
These capabilities would put Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well cities much further south, into rocket range.
"There is a war in the Middle East between two camps, the extreme and the moderate, which is pushing Iran to take radical steps. Without Iran's support to finance weapons and terror groups they would be lacking the means available to them today," said Ashkenazi.
Israel, the United Nations and Hezbollah itself have all said that the militia is stronger today than it was during the Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.
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