Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned late Monday that his Lebanese Shiite party was ready to fight a new war with Israel as the Jewish state prepares for one of its largest military exercises ever later this month.
"There is a possibility that Israel may be preparing to launch a new surprise war and is readying its people for such an eventuality," Nasrallah said in a address carried on Al Manar, the group’s satellite channel.
"If Israel plans on pulling anything during the maneuvers we’re sending it a message that we stand ready and they will fail," he added. "We will not bury our heads in the sand."
He said the maneuvers, scheduled May 31 to June 4, were Israel’s largest since 1961 and called for taking "preventive measures for the duration of the maneuvers."
The Hezbollah chief said the military exercises, which Israel has also described as one of its largest ever, may be a "psychological message" aimed at restoring the Israeli people’s faith in their state and defense forces in the wake of the 2006 war in Lebanon that many saw as a victory for the paramilitary group.
"The maneuvers could also be a scare tactic aimed at sending a strong message to the region," he said.
He also said the exercises could be preparation for another war against Lebanon, but said that the group’s analysts thought this unlikely.
"We don’t think that Israel will launch a war against Lebanon," said Nasrallah, "but we should be cautious and ready."
Apart from the maneuvers lined up for the end of the month that were announced in March, an Israeli military spokesman said the country’s air force on Monday started a large-scale four-day exercise, the latest in a series of maneuvers.
Nasrallah’s speech came ahead of the crucial June 7 parliamentary election in Lebanon, in which his alliance could wrest majority control from a Western-backed Sunni-led coalition.
The speech also comes amid a crackdown in Lebanon on Israeli espionage networks, which has led to the arrest of more than a dozen people, including a retired security official.
MP Hasan Fadlallah, a member of the opposition, warned that Israel was assaulting Lebanon’s national sovereignty with its spy networks, and called on Lebanese to resist aggression by the Jewish state.