Tehran and Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah warn of cataclysmic retaliation against an Israeli attack, threatening to make the country “a living hell.” The statements come amidst reports of that Israel is preparing a unilateral strike on Iran.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his party had already fixed targets in Israel and would be able to hit them with a small number of rockets if Tel Aviv decides to attack first.
“If we are forced to use them to protect our people and our country, we will not hesitate to do so… and that will turn the lives of hundreds of thousands of Zionists into a living hell,” Nasrallah warned in a speech on Quds Day, an annual event to show solidarity with Palestinians under occupation using the Arabic name for Jerusalem.
Nasrallah also predicted that an Israeli strike on Iran would bring an “enormous response” from the Islamic Republic, giving it “the opportunity it has been dreaming of” since 1979.
Israeli military leaders have been signaling that they may attack the Lebanese group's militant factions in the near future if rocket strikes against Israeli targets continue.
“If we get to another war, Israel will hit Hezbollah decisively, quickly, as fast as we can in order to stop the fire from Lebanon,” Brig. General Herzi Halevi, the commander of the Israeli Defense Forces' northern division, said last month, also warning that South Lebanese towns used by Hezbollah as launching pads would be “destroyed.”
The leader’s diatribe against Israel was not dissimilar to a speech given by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday.
“The Zionist regime and the Zionists are a cancerous tumor,” he declared in remarks at Tehran University. “The nations of the region will soon finish off the usurper Zionists in the Palestinian land.”
He went on to say that a “new” Middle East, free of US and “Zionist” influence, would then be formed.
State television showed huge crowds gathering for rallies in Tehran and other major cities to mark Quds Day, which was established in 1979 by the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The latest tirades come amidst growing speculation that Israel is planning to carry out a unilateral strike against Iran, who it suspects is trying to produce nuclear weapons. While the US shares similar fears, Washington has strayed from its usual adherence to Israeli policy, instead insisting on pressuring Tehran with sanctions, calling military force an absolute last resort.
Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, an assertion shared by most international experts. Nevertheless, Tehran says Israel would regret going forward with a military strike against it.
“If they make a mistake, our nation's reaction will lead to the end of the Zionist regime,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying. He also noted that Israel knows it does not have the ability to successfully attack Iran.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the anti-Israel statements made by Ahmadinejad.
“The Secretary-General is dismayed by the remarks threatening Israel’s existence attributed over the last two days to the Supreme Leader and the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Secretary-General condemns these offensive and inflammatory statements,” the UN said.
“The Secretary-General believes that all leaders in the region should use their voices at this time to lower, rather than to escalate, tensions. In accordance with the United Nations Charter, all members must refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”
In the meantime, many Israelis have been signing petitions urging their leaders and military not to strike Iran.
Tel Aviv has been giving all the signs that a pre-emptive attack against Iranian nuclear sites may be immanent. Emergency text messaging systems have been tested in some cities, and gas mask sales have been on the rise. Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently discussed the possible fallout from strike on Iran with Israel’s new Ambassador to China, Matan Vilnai.
While Iran and Israel have never gone to war with each other, Israel tried to rid Lebanon of Hezbollah unsuccessfully with a military assault in 2006 that drew an international outcry over allegations of war crimes. Israel and Lebanon have been in a state of war ever since, and Israeli officials accuse Hezbollah of carrying out the last month's deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and a local bus driver.