Hezbollah‘s leader has reiterated Israel would face repercussions for an alleged drone attack and said its field commanders were ready to respond.
“The need for a response is decided,” Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Saturday, adding that Israel “must pay a price.”
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Nasrallah addressed supporters as tensions between the Lebanon-based movement and the Israeli government threatened to escalate further.
Last Sunday, Hezbollah accused Israel of flying explosive-laden drones into the group’s stronghold in the Lebanese capital and promised to retaliate.
At the time, the Iran-backed movement said one drone had landed on the roof of a building housing Hezbollah’s media office, while a second drone had exploded midair.
Israeli media has since reported that the drones were targeting hardware for mixing the propellant used in precision-guided missiles.
Hezbollah and Lebanese officials have not responded to those reports, while Israel has not claimed responsibility for the incident.
Alleged missile programme
On Thursday, Israel’s army accused Iran of collaborating with Hezbollah to assemble precision-guided missiles that could cause “massive” human casualties.
But Nasrallah on Saturday said claims that Hezbollah was working with Iran to build a missile production programme were a “lie” and a “hanger” to justify Israeli aggression against Lebanon.
“We do not have factories to produce precision-guided missiles in Lebanon,” Nasrallah said.
He added the group already has enough precision-missiles for any confrontation “small or big”, without needing to build factories to produce more.
Shortly before Nasrallah spoke, Israel’s army announced that it had ordered extra forces to deploy to the “northern command” along the border with Lebanon, further upping the ante in the escalation.
“Ground forces, air, navy and intelligence forces improved their preparedness for various scenarios” and “reserve soldiers have received a message regarding the relevant time they need to deploy,” the army said on Saturday.
Attacks on Iran-backed militias
Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy and has identified Hezbollah as the most potent military threat on its border.
Its military estimates that Hezbollah, which fought Israel to a stalemate in a month-long war in 2006, now has a vast arsenal of some 130,000 rockets and missiles, but most are believed to be relatively primitive unguided projectiles.
However, Israel considers the acquisition of precision-guided missiles by Hezbollah to be a major game-changer in the long-running standoff.
Beginning last week, a series of attacks have targeted Iranian-backed militias in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, stoking fears of a regional escalation. The militias have blamed the attacks on Israel, which has recently stepped up its efforts to curtail the expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East.
Last Sunday’s drone attack in Lebanon came just hours after Israel launched attacks in neighbouring Syria to prevent what it said was an impending Iranian drone attack on Israel.
Hezbollah, which also operates in Syria, said two of its fighters were killed in those attacks.
In a rare incident on Wednesday, the Lebanese army said it opened fire on Israeli drones that had violated Lebanon’s southern airspace, forcing the aircraft to return across the border.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri has called the incursion “a threat to regional stability” and an attack on the country’s sovereignty.