Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday it was only a matter of time before the group killed an Israeli soldier to avenge the death of one its fighters in Syria and that it would not be drawn into clashes on the Lebanon-Israel frontier.
Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah last fought a war in 2006, and tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border have been running high after the Shi'ite movement said one of its members was killed in an apparent Israeli air strike in July in Syria.
"Israel needs to understand that when they kill one of our mujahideen, we will kill one of their soldiers. This is the equation," Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
"We will not engage in exchanges of fire ... because this is what Israel wants," he said. "They know that we are not looking for a publicity achievement, but that we are looking for soldiers to kill and they are hiding them like rats."
Earlier this week the Israeli military struck what it said were Hezbollah posts after shots were fired at troops in Israel, which Nasrallah on Sunday denied. Last month, Israel said the group carried out an infiltration attempt, a charge it denied.
No casualties were reported on either side in the incidents.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah would not be drawn into clashes that would "waste the blood of our martyrs and our equation".
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After two Hezbollah members were killed in Damascus in 2019, Nasrallah vowed the group would respond if Israel killed any more Hezbollah fighters inside Syria, where they deployed as part of Iranian-backed efforts to support President Bashar al-Assad in a war that spiralled out of 2011 anti-government protests.
Israel has stepped up strikes on Syria in recent months in what Western intelligence sources say is a shadow war, approved by Washington, that has undermined Iran's military power in the region without triggering a major increase in hostilities.
Hezbollah open to political reform
In the same speech, Nasrallah also said Hezbollah is open to discussing a new political order in Lebanon if all factions agree to it, as foreign donors press for deep reforms to tackle the country's multiple crises.
The presidency has called for parliamentary consultations on Monday to choose a new prime minister after the government, which took office with the backing of Hezbollah and its allies, quit over this month's Beirut port blast.
Nasrallah's remarks suggested the group was ready to discuss more profound changes.
"France's president in his last visit called for a new political contract ... We are open to any calm discussion for a new political contract but on the condition it take place with agreement from all Lebanese factions," Nasrallah said in a speech.
He said the movement supported "reforms to the widest extent" if there was a mechanism to agree on them.
French President Emmanuel Macron, due to visit Beirut again on Monday, has outlined reforms local politicians must make to unlock foreign aid to tackle a deep financial crisis rooted in corruption and mismanagement, including an interim government capable of enacting change and early parliamentary polls.
There has been little progress in agreeing on a premier so far amid political rivalries and factional jostling. Under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim.
Hezbollah and its Shi'ite ally Amal want the return of Saad al-Hariri, seeing him as capable of galvanising foreign support.
But this has hit resistance from several parties, including Hezbollah's ally the Maronite Christian President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law, Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil, at loggerheads with Hariri since last year.
Hezbollah and its allies have a parliamentary majority.
The government's resignation deepened uncertainty in the country, whose political elite has been the target of public anger over an economic meltdown and the August 4 blast that involved highly-explosive material stored unsafely for years.