BEIRUT, Lebanon (AFP) – Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah vowed on Tuesday to unleash his guerilla group’s military might on Israel’s infrastructure, including Tel Aviv airport, should the Jewish state attack Lebanon.
“I say to the Israelis: if you attack Beirut’s Rafiq Hariri airport we will attack Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv,” he said in comments transmitted via video link to thousands of supporters massed in Hezbollah’s stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburbs.
He added that should Israel bomb Lebanon’s refineries, factories or power plants, his militant party would retaliate with all its might.
He did not specify what kind of weapons would be used.
“I declare to you today that I accept this challenge,” Nasrallah said in a defiant speech commemorating the assassinations of three Hezbollah leaders.
“If you destroy one building in the southern suburbs we will destroy several of yours,” he added.
His comments came amid an escalating war of words between Israel and Hezbollah that has raised concerns of a renewed conflict in the region that could draw in Syria and Iran, the two main supporters of the Shiite militant group.
Nasrallah, whose party fought a devastating war with the Jewish state in 2006 and is labelled a terrorist organisation by Washington, accused Israel of engaging in a “psychological war” aimed at sowing fear among the Lebanese.
“Israel needs no excuse to attack this country and it can make one up at any time,” he said.
He added that his party was not seeking a new conflict but stood ready to respond to any Israeli attack.
“The only language Israel understands is that of threats,” he said.
“Israel today is caught in a double bind,” he added. “It cannot impose peace and yet it is unable to wage war.
“The Israeli army and the Israeli people cannot afford a new defeat,” he said. “The beginning of the end for them started in 2006 and continued with the war on Gaza.”
His speech on Tuesday was in commemoration of the killing of his predecessor Abbas Moussawi, who died in an Israeli air raid in 1992, as well as Ragheb Harb, another Hezbollah leader assassinated by Israel in 1984, and top commander Imad Mughnieh, who died in a car bombing in Damascus in 2008.
Nasrallah vowed to avenge Mughnieh’s killing with an attack befitting his rank as a top Hezbollah commander.
“In the last two years, we had at our disposal many small targets but we held back because what we aim for is revenge befitting his rank,” he said.
Israeli officials have warned repeatedly that any attack by Hezbollah will spark a tough response on Lebanon as a whole and have been locked in a war of words with Syrian leaders as well.
Hezbollah in recent years has intensified training of its militants and reportedly stockpiled 40,000 rockets, more than double the figure prior to the 2006 war.