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LEBANON: Hezbollah threatens Israeli ships, Israel conducts war-preparedness drills

May 26, 2010 | 10:36 am
Nasrallah may 25Tuesday marked the 10-year anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon, and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah took the opportunity to reiterate his promise to exact equal damage from Israel in any future conflict, this time threatening Israel's naval capabilities.

"If you launch a new war on Lebanon, if you blockade our coastline, all military, civilian or commercial ships heading through the Mediterranean to occupied Palestine will be targeted by the Islamic Resistance," Nasrallah said in a speech broadcast Tuesday night.

During the 2006 July War between Israel and Hezbollah, Israel imposed a siege on Lebanon's coast and shelled its ports.

"When the world sees how these ships are destroyed, no one will dare go" to Israel, he added. "And I am only speaking about the Mediterranean; I haven't reached the Red Sea yet."

Large_Israeli-drill-060209 Nasrallah's statements were made as Israel carries out a five-day, country-wide drill that began Sunday and is intended to increase preparedness in case of rocket attacks from either Gaza or Lebanon, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Nasrallah refused to confirm of deny recent allegations the group has received long-range Scud missiles through Syria, a claim Damascus denies. The missiles would be capable of targeting any site in Israel.

"The whole hullabaloo over the Scuds was so that Israel could get $200 or $250 million in aid from the U.S. Congress," Nasrallah said, but stopped short of denying his group had the weapons.

Perhaps in response to Israel's drills, Hezbollah held its own, smaller war games near Baalbak in the northern Bekaa valley, the Lebanese daily As-Safir reported (in Arabic).

May 25, the day of the Israeli withdrawal, is now celebrated as a national holiday in Lebanon. President Michel Sleiman also made an appearance on Hezbollah's news channel, Al Manar, claiming "resistance is the only way to gain usurped rights."

Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah appear to be rising, despite efforts by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Washington this week to ease concerns over Hezbollah's arms and secure more military aid for the Lebanese Armed Forces.

A senior State Department official also told reporters that U.S. officials and Hariri discussed the upcoming vote on the resolution for new UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, the Lebanese English-language newspaper The Daily Star reported.

Lebanon's government included members of Hezbollah and is thought to be opposed to new sanctions against Iran.

Meris Lutz in Beirut

Image: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah addresses supporters in a speech broadcast on the party's TV channel, Al Manar. Credit: Meris Lutz

Photo: Israelis are currently preparing for possible attack with a military drill similar to this one from 2009. Credit: Associate Press