BEIRUT (AP) – A Hezbollah government minister refused Friday to confirm or deny Israeli allegations that the militant Lebanese group has acquired Scud missiles.
In the first Hezbollah comment on the Israeli charges, Minister Hussein Haj Hassan said the group was always arming and preparing itself but, “what we have is not their business.”
Israeli defense officials have said they believe Hezbollah has obtained Scud missiles capable of hitting targets anywhere in Israel. Israel’s President Shimon Peres earlier this week directly accused Damascus of providing the weapons.
Israel has not offered proof to back up the claim, and Syria’s Foreign Ministry strongly denied the charge, saying it “believes that Israel aims through these claims to further strain the atmosphere in the region.”
It added that Israel could be setting the stage for a possible “aggression in order to run away from the requirements of a just and comprehensive peace.”
Haj Hassan told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV Friday that Israel possessed all kinds of weapons, including nuclear warheads. “It’s only natural for Lebanon to have the means to defend itself against an Israeli attack,” he said.
Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, has said his militants have more than 30,000 rockets and are capable of hitting anywhere in Israel. Those claims match Israeli intelligence assessments.
Some Scud missiles have a range of hundreds of miles (kilometers), meaning that guerrillas could launch them from deeper inside Lebanon and farther from Israel’s reach.
Scuds can carry a warhead of up to 1 ton, making them far larger than the biggest rockets previously in Hezbollah’s arsenal, and are also more accurate.
Also Friday, around 20 villagers from the southern Lebanese town of Abbasiyeh removed a barbed wire that was set up three days earlier by Israeli troops just south of the Blue Line, which separates Israeli and Lebanese forces.
The demonstration was a protest against the fence, placed by the Israelis earlier this week. Some Lebanese says the blue line is not accurate and had given parts of Lebanon to Israel. The villagers were led by a lawmaker close to Hezbollah, Qassem Hashem.
U.N. spokesman, Andrea Teneti said the villagers also removed a minefield sign and placed Lebanese flags near the location.