Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, said Friday the downing of an Israeli jet was a great military success. He also said the United States must accept Lebanon's government’s demands over border disputes with Israel and vowed it was ready to act against Israel if necessary.
U.S. diplomats have been mediating between the two countries after a surge in tensions over a border wall which Israel is building and Lebanon’s decision to explore for offshore energy near disputed waters.
Earlier on Friday, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told a U.S. envoy that Lebanon rejects current U.S. proposals over the marine border with Israel.
“The state must have a strong and firm position,” said Nasrallah, the head of the Iran-backed political and military movement, in a televised speech at a rally.
Nasrallah said the main issue currently at stake was Lebanon’s maritime borders.
“In the oil and gas battle, the only power (the Lebanese) have is the resistance,” he said, in a reference to the heavily armed, Shi‘ite Muslim Hezbollah.
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The Lebanese army could not stop Israel in this matter, he said, because the United States - Israel’s key ally and also a key supporter of Lebanon’s military - would stand in its way.
Nasrallah added that the U.S. is incapable of being an honest moderator on the matter because it always favors Israel, and that American representatives come to Lebanon in order to dictate, not mediate.
Speaking for Hezbollah's capabilities, Nasrallah asserted that the movement was capable of neutralizing all of Israel's offshore oil and gas plants if Lebanon's Higher Defense Council were to order it.
Nasrallah also referred to the downing of the Israeli F16 fighter jet, proclaiming it an unprecedented achievement that changes the future landscape of the conflict. He emphasized the jet was shot down by Syrian forces, who should be proud of the brave and heroic decisions made by their commanding officers.
Addressing U.S. military presence in Syria, Nasrallah claimed it is meant to provide defense for the remaining Islamic State forces. He stressed the Kurds must learn from the past and not allow the U.S. to use them as disposable pawns for their own interests.
Nasrallah spoke in a televised address at a rally commemorating senior commanders, including former military leader Imad Moughniyah who was killed in a bomb blast in Damascus in 2008.
In recent years, Israeli jets have, according to foreign reports, repeatedly struck Hezbollah arms stores and convoys in neighboring Syria, where the group fights alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s army.