BEIRUT, (AP) – The leader of Hezbollah said Monday that his militant group has the right to possess air-defense weapons to face the Israeli warplanes that regularly fly over Lebanon.
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, however, refused to confirm or deny persistent Israeli reports that Hezbollah may have acquired anti-aircraft missiles.
He did say an air defense system would change the balance of power by shattering Israel’s air superiority after Hezbollah managed to withstand Israel’s air, ground and sea bombardment during their 2006 war.
Nasrallah spoke via a video link to a rally commemorating last year’s assassination of Hezbollah’s top military commander, Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed by a car bomb in Syria. Hezbollah blames Israel, which has denied involvement.
Nasrallah said Israeli media report occasionally that Hezbollah has acquired sophisticated air defense missiles.
“I will not deny or confirm” the reports, Nasrallah said, but added that such weapons would weaken Israeli air power and change the region’s power equation.
“What I want to confirm today is that we have the full right to possess any weapons, including air defense weapons. Also, we have the full right to use this weapon if we want,” he said.
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006 that killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians, and 159 in Israel. Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets at Israel.