Hezbollah has no intention of divulging “precise details” about how it will respond to “Israel’s aggression,” the organization’s deputy secretary general, Naim Qassem, said Sunday, amid expectations that the group will retaliate against the killing of one of its operatives in Syria last week, which it blamed on Israel.
“There’s no change in the rules of the game and the formula for our response,” he told Al Mayadeen, a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese television station. “A balance of deterrence against Israel exists, and we don’t intend to change this balance.”
Qassem also confirmed that Israel had sent Hezbollah a message via the United Nations. On Saturday, Al Mayadeen reported that Israel told Hezbollah it hadn’t intended to kill the operative in last week’s airstrike, which was aimed at combating Iran’s presence in Syria.
Though Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has yet to comment on last week’s incident, Qassem’s statement about the “balance of deterrence” indicates that Hezbollah will likely try to respond. Nevertheless, Israel’s assessment is that it will try to do so in a limited fashion so as not to spark a full-blown war.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke about the tension with Hezbollah on Sunday, saying that “we aren’t looking to engage in unnecessary escalations” during a visit to the army’s Northern Command. “But anyone who tests us will encounter very high operational capabilities, which I hope there won’t be any need for us to use,” he added.
Several roads in the north were closed to military traffic on Sunday, and Iron Dome anti-missile batteries were stationed in the area. On Sunday evening, the military said an IDF drone had fallen in Lebanon during operations near the border, but that there was no concern over information possibly being compromised as a result.
During his visit to Northern Command, Gantz said that “Israel has no interests in Syria or Lebanon except security interests, but we’ll continue to stand up for our security interests.” He defined those interests as preventing Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, preventing the transfer of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah and preventing the establishment of precision weapons capabilities “anywhere in the region, whether in Syria or Lebanon.”
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On Friday, the IDF attacked Syrian military targets in southern Syria in response to fire at the Golan Heights.
“The situation in Lebanon and Syria isn’t good – not from an economic standpoint, not from the standpoint of the coronavirus, not from the standpoint of their infrastructure,” Gantz added. “I’d like to remind both Lebanon and Syria that they are responsible for what goes on in their territory and from their territory. Israel will demand this responsibility.”