Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday warned the head of Lebanon's Tehran-backed Hezbollah that "crushing" retaliation would follow any attack, after its leader said the group's rockets could reach Tel Aviv.
"Over the weekend we heard [Hassan] Nasrallah's boasting about his attack plans," he said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. "Let me be clear, if Hezbollah dares to make the mistake of attacking Israel, we will lay upon it and on Lebanon a crushing military blow."
In an interview broadcast on Hezbollah's Al-Manar television last week, Nasrallah boasted that his group is much stronger than during the 2006 war and is capable of striking anywhere in Israel. He warned that key Israeli sites along the Mediterranean coast, including Tel Aviv, were "within range of our rockets." The head of the Lebanese Shiite movement also said that Israel's archfoe Iran was "able to bombard Israel with ferocity and force," but "will not start a war." Nasrallah's interview was to mark the anniversary of the start of his movement's 2006 war with Israel, which killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi on Friday said that Israel is preparing for a "possible" military confrontation with Iran and its military wings in the next two years, as reported by the Middle East Monitor. Speaking to Israel Hayom, Hanegbi said, "The possibility that there will be a military confrontation with Iran or its military arms is more likely than the possibility there will not be a war." The minister claimed that the war with Iran "has already moved from proxy war to direct war."
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah military targets. It has vowed to keep Iran from entrenching itself militarily there. Since the war in Syria broke out in 2011, Iran has been staunchly backing the Syrian regime by providing financial aid, weapons and manpower. Iranian troops and the Iranian-backed militias, primarily Lebanon-based Hezbollah, have played crucial roles in defending or retaking strategic positions from opposition groups in places like Aleppo.