Lebanese terror group commanders say forces being sent to south for possible conflict, as pressure on Tehran grows
As tensions rose in the Persian Gulf over the weekend with Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker, several commanders of Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, said they were deploying forces for possible war with Israel, warning that the growing pressure from sanctions on Tehran could trigger such a conflict sooner rather than later.
Officers in the organization told the Daily Beast in a report published Friday that its forces were setting up for war on both Lebanon’s and Syria’s border with Israel.
“We will fire the first shot this time,” said “Samir,” identified as a Hezbollah officer commanding 800 fighters on the border with Israel. He did not give his real name as he is not allowed to speak to the media. “The sanctions now have us preparing for dealing with the Israeli front,” he told the US publication.
The 2006 Second Lebanon War began after Hezbollah launched a surprise attack on an Israel Defense Forces patrol on the northern border in July that year, killing three Israeli soldiers and capturing the bodies of two of them.
Samir, a veteran of that war, spoke of the group’s greatly improved capabilities, as well as new weaponry targeting aircraft and naval vessels acquired in Syria and a more “seasoned” fighting force after years of battle in the country alongside forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.
Samir said Hezbollah had been wanting to open a new front with Israel but was held back by Assad.
“Our wish before the war in Syria was to go and open a front in the Golan but [the Syrian Government] set a red line,” the commander said, describing the limits the Assad regime placed on Hezbollah’s operations in its territory. “Now there are no red lines.”
Samir indicated that a new conflict with Israel would be “nothing like those that came before.” And he said Hezbollah could be deployed if Iran is pushed into a corner.
“If any missile hits Iran, it will be treated like Israel did it,” he said.
Samir said the punitive measures on Iran were being felt by the terror group as Tehran reduced financial support and salaries for Hezbollah fighters were cut.
According to Times of Israel, Another commander, “Assir,” noted that many Hezbollah fighters returning from the conflict in Syria were being sent to the Israeli border.
“People who finish their mission in Syria go to the south,” he said. “There are some units in Syria but a lot go back to Lebanon or to the Golan. Thousands have come back.”
A third commander who spoke to the Daily Beast, identified as “Ayman,” said that despite military readiness, there was a strong desire to avoid war as the devastation of the 2006 conflict is well remembered.
The 34-day war saw thousands of rockets rain down on Israel’s northern region and claimed the lives 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers, and nearly 1,200 Lebanese, including several hundred Hezbollah fighters, according to the Israeli army.
In the 13 years since that summer war, Israel has repeatedly accused Hezbollah of violating United Nations resolution 1701, which ended the war. In June, the head of the IDF Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Amir Baram, threatened overt and covert action against Hezbollah and Lebanon, in response to its efforts to build up terrorist infrastructure along the border.
Hezbollah, Baram said, was “building infrastructure in the villages right here across [the border] and trying to threaten us with attack forces.”
The Northern Command chief said that in a future war against the terror group the country of Lebanon was likely to “pay a heavy price” for allowing Hezbollah to take root there.
“Hezbollah’s loyalty was and remains to the supreme leader of Iran, not to the citizens of Lebanon. As a direct result of this, the nation of Lebanon will pay a heavy price in the next campaign for cooperating with Shiite terror,” Baram said, referring to the sect of Islam practiced by Hezbollah and Iran.
Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, the Israeli military has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria on targets linked to Iran and Hezbollah.
Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, which Jerusalem has vowed to prevent.
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