TEL AVIV – The IDF Chief Of Staff on Sunday warned Beirut that the Israeli army would strike Lebanese strongholds, not just those affiliated with Hezbollah, if the terror group attacks Israel.
“The recent declarations from Beirut make it clear that in a future war, the targets will be clear: the state of Lebanon and the terror groups operating in its territory and under its authority,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot said during a ceremony at an army base in northern Israel.
On Friday, the army carried out airstrikes in Syria against a weapons transfer to Hezbollah. Two days later the IDF targeted a pro-regime militia affiliated with Hezbollah on the Syrian side of the Golan, reportedly killing a senior jihadi militant.
“We are acting to prevent weapons transfers to Hezbollah and will make every effort to prevent them in the future as well,” Eizenkot said at the ceremony.
Eizenkot also reiterated that Hezbollah was operating south of the Litani River near the border with Israel, violating a UN resolution passed during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Under the UN-brokered ceasefire, the terror group was instructed to disarm, but has only increased in strength since then, in particular as a result of fighting alongside Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria.
Friday’s strikes were met with retaliatory missiles from Syria, the first serious cross-border clash since the civil war began. One missile was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow missile defense battery.
Syrian media reported another Israeli strike between Sunday and Monday near the country’s border with Lebanon, allegedly hitting another weapons convoy bound for Hezbollah.
Russia said on Monday that it had summoned Israel’s ambassador Gary Koren over its “concern” regarding Israeli strikes in close proximity to Russian military bases.
On Sunday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the next time Syria fires missiles at Israeli warplanes, Israel will strike back by targeting their defense systems. “The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation,” Liberman told Israel radio.
Education Minister and security cabinet member Naftali Bennett on Monday said that in the past Israel’s policy was to target Hezbollah only and not Lebanese institutions, but that policy can no longer be maintained since “Lebanon is Hezbollah and Hezbollah is Lebanon … all of Hezbollah’s infrastructure is intertwined with that of Lebanon.”
“Hezbollah is part of the government, they chose the president, and all of Lebanon’s leaders say that Hezbollah is part of their national security. We can’t keep looking for a needle in the haystack of Lebanon. Every Lebanese citizen needs to know that if rockets are fired on us from Lebanon, we will see it as the Lebanese government’s declaration of war, and we will act accordingly,” Bennett, who is also the leader of the Jewish Home party, said.