Israeli Threats to Lebanon Will Meet 'Appropriate Response,' President Says

Comments by Hezbollah-ally Aoun come week after Hezbollah called Trump an 'idiot', threatened Israel's nuclear reactor.

Hezbollah fighters parade during a ceremony to honor fallen comrades, in Tefahta village, south Lebanon, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017.
Mohammad Zaatari/AP

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Saturday that any Israeli attempt to violate Lebanon's sovereignty would be met with the "appropriate response", in a statement released by his office.

"Any attempt to hurt Lebanese sovereignty or expose the Lebanese to danger will find the appropriate response," the statement said, without elaborating.

His comments came after a week in which Hezbollah upped its rhetoric against Israel and the new administration in Washington. Hezbollah leader's harsh words for Israel and U.S. President Donald Trump were aimed at drawing "red lines" to prevent any threatening action against Lebanon or the group, a source familiar with the group's thinking said on Friday.

Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah, defended the group this week, saying: "As long as the Lebanese army lacks sufficient power to face Israel, we feel the need for (Hezbollah's) arsenal because it complements the army's role".

Trump and administration officials have used strong rhetoric against Hezbollah's political patron Iran and to support its main enemy Israel, including putting Tehran "on notice" over charges it violated a nuclear deal by test-firing a ballistic missile.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday described Trump as being an "idiot". On Thursday he said that his group could strike its nuclear reactor at Dimona.

"Until now, Hezbollah is not worried about the arrival of Trump into the U.S. administration, but rather, it called him an idiot this week and drew red lines in front of any action that threatens Lebanon or Hezbollah's presence in Syria," the source familiar with the thinking of the Lebanese Shi'ite group said.

Israel and the United States both regard Hezbollah, which dominates Lebanese politics and maintains an armed militia that has had a significant part in fighting for President Bashar Assad in Syria, as a terrorist organization.

The group was founded as a resistance movement against Israel's occupation of the predominantly Shi'ite Muslim south Lebanon which ended in 2000, a role that meant Beirut allowed it to keep its arms after the country's civil war ended in 1990.

In 2006 Israel launched another war against Hezbollah in south Lebanon but withdrew without forcing the group, which gives allegiance to the supreme leader of Shi'ite Iran, to abandon its weapons.