On May 25, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel with a “grand war,” in response to recent warnings to Lebanon from officials in Tel Aviv.
In his annual Resistance and Liberation Day speech, which marks the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon 23 years ago, Nasrallah said Israeli leaders should “be careful and not make wrong calculations.”
Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate chief Aharon Haliva said on May 22 that Nasrallah was “close to making what he called a “mistake” that “could spark a regional war, while warning that the conflict between Israel and Iran was becoming increasingly direct.
Speaking at a conference hosted by the Institute for Policy and Strategy of Reichman University in Herzliya, Haliva said “the chances of an escalation that could deteriorate into war is not low,” and that, as far as Nasrallah is concerned, a recent flareup on the Israel-Lebanon border may not be over.
“The Israelis must retract their threats and give up their arrogance,” Nasrallah said, responding to Haliva. “Any mistake might blow up the entire region,” he added, directly addressing Haliva’s remarks.
Hezbollah leader went on to say that Israel “failed to restore deterrence” during fighting earlier this month against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
“The deterrence equation is what’s protecting Lebanon,” he said, adding “You are not the ones to threaten a grand war; we are the ones who rather threaten you with it.”
Haliva’s warning came after Hezbollah held a military exercise in southern Lebanon, some 20 kilometers away from the front with Israel, on May 21. The group showcased multiple rocket launchers, anti-tank guided missiles, man-portable air-defense systems and drones during the exercise, sparking panic in Tel Aviv.
On May 23, the Israeli Defense Forces dropped leaflets over southern Lebanon warning people against approaching the frontline, in what appears to be a response to Hezbollah’s exercise. Later on May 25, Israeli troops downed a small quadcopter drone that was likely launched by Hezbollah after it crossed the frontline.
Nasrallah’s threat affirmed that Hezbollah is determined to maintain deterrence against Israel even if this meant risking a full-blown war.