Lebanese destroy model tank to mark Israeli withdrawal
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warns Europe against global jihadist threat of radical fighters returning from Syria.
Lebanese activists spent more than three months building a replica of an Israeli Merkava tank – and then blew it up on Sunday to mark the country's Resistance and Liberation Day, the Daily Star newspaper reported.
Now being celebrated for the fourteenth year, Resistance and Liberation Day marks the withdrawal of Israeli troops from south Lebanon in 2000.
The replica tank was dragged around the southern coastal city of Sidon by a donkey in a so-called “Defeat Tour,” stopping at locations where anti-Israeli operations were carried out, before being blown up in the city Martyrs’ Square.
“We were brainstorming an unconventional means to mark the anniversary of the withdrawal of Israel from south Lebanon and we agreed that we’ll reproduce a generation 4 Merkava tank and destroy it as the occasion draws nearer,” said Ibrahim Jomaa, one of the event's organizers.
Hezbollah members who fought during the 2006 war between the Shiite organization and Israel helped the activists build the model, Jomaa said. “But the event is meant to honor all the factions who fought Israel; the secular factions and the communist, the Arab nationalist and the Islamist,” he stressed.
The Merkava has been Israel's main battle tank since its introduction in the late 1970s. Five Merkava Mark IVs, the latest model of the tank, were destroyed during the 2006 war in Lebanon.
In another Liberation Day ceremony on Sunday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned that the thousands of radical foreign fighters fighting against the regime in Syria posed a global threat as they trickled home.
"Many of them are alive, and some of them have begun returning to their first fronts — in Europe, and other places. This is a threat to the security of Europe, international security, how will these countries deal with them?" Nasrallah said, speaking via video link at a festival in the southern village of Bint Jbeil.
Hezbollah fighters have been instrumental in helping Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces dislodge opposition fighters from their strongholds along the countries' border, severing important supply lines and ultimately weakening chaotic rebels.
"Syria will triumph and the resistance axis will triumph," he said, speaking two weeks ahead of the June 3 presidential election in Syria.
Nasrallah also threatened to respond to what he said were "Israel’s violations" on the border with Israel, which, he said, had increased in recent months.
“The rate of Israel’s violations have increased, with soldiers shooting and yelling at Lebanese farmers, and so on,” he said. “If it reaches that point which requires our intervention, then we will not remain silent with regards to these offenses and violations,” he warned.
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