Netanyahu warns Hezbollah, Lebanon to ‘be careful’

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday warned Lebanon, Hezbollah’s chief and the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force to “be careful” with their words and actions.

Addressing Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Netanyahu told a conference in Jerusalem that “he knows very well that the state of Israel knows how to defend itself well, and to repay its enemies”.

“I want to say to him and the Lebanese state, which is hosting this organisation that aims to destroy us, and I say the same to Qassem Soleimani: Be careful about your words, and even more cautious about your actions.”

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He suggested that Nasrallah “calm down”.

Netanyahu spoke after a series of incidents in recent days that have raised tensions between Israel, Lebanon, Iran and Tehran-backed Hezbollah.

In a televised speech broadcast on Sunday Nasrallah accused Israel of being behind a drone attack on the Lebanese Shiite movement’s Beirut stronghold and threatened retaliation.

“I say to the Israeli army along the border, from tonight be ready and wait for us,” he said.

“Do not rest, do not be reassured, and do not bet for a single moment that Hezbollah will allow… aggression of this kind.”

He called it the first such “hostile action” since a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah which took the lives of 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

In northern Israel on Tuesday an AFP photographer saw an Israeli tank on the border with Lebanon but said that all appeared to be calm.

Hezbollah said Tuesday that one of the drones involved in the Beirut attack which crashed and did not explode was carrying an explosive device of more than five kilogrammes (11 pounds).

The Lebanese army said two Israeli drones had violated Lebanon’s airspace over Beirut before dawn on Sunday, with one exploding over the capital’s southern suburbs.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun called the incident a “declaration of war”.

Hours before the Beirut incident, Israel announced it had carried out a strike in neighbouring Syria to thwart what it said was a plan by an Iranian force to attack its territory with drones.

On Monday, a pro-Syrian Palestinian group accused Israel of carrying out a drone attack on one of its positions in Lebanon.

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria targeting what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets.

Iran and Hezbollah, along with Russia, have backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s civil war.

Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organisation by Israel and the United States, is a major political actor in Lebanon and a key government backer in war-torn Syria.

Netanyahu has pledged to stop Israel’s arch-enemy Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria.

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