Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah confirmed in an interview published Monday that the group was behind a blast that targeted Israeli occupation forces on Lebanon’s southeastern border last month.
“Yes, the explosion in the Shebaa Farms that Hezbollah has not claimed until now was the work of the Resistance, which means the work of Hezbollah,” Nasrallah told the As-Safir daily.
The March 14 explosion came after Israeli warplanes bombed a Hezbollah position inside Lebanon on February 24 near the border with Syria.
“This was not the reply, but this was part of the reply,” Nasrallah told the paper.
The message to Israel, he said, was “you hit a military target and the resistance responded by hitting a military target.”
The blast hit an Israeli patrol inside Lebanon’s occupied Shebaa Farms area. The Israeli military said none of its troops was wounded in the blast.
On February 24, Israeli warplanes bombed a Hezbollah position on the Lebanese-Syrian border, though Israel refused to officially confirm or deny the attack.
Hezbollah acknowledged the Israeli strikes and pledged they would not “stand without a response,” adding that the group would “choose the appropriate time, place and means.”
Israel launched a brutal assault on Lebanon in 2006 vowing to eradicate Hezbollah, killing more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians.
But Nasrallah said he was confident Israel would not wage a new war against the group.
“Based on military data and information on the ground on the one hand, and the political situation on the other, Israel will not go ahead with a war on Lebanon,” he said.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah was now in a stronger position than during the 2006 conflict.
“The resistance in Lebanon, at the regional and international level, is in a better situation compared to the eve of the 2006 war,” he said.
“It is not easy for Israel to decide on a war in the region because of the possibilities and the nature of the battle that would result and what Israel could achieve and what losses it would suffer,” Nasrallah added.
Syrian government no longer in danger
In the same interview, Nasrallah also said that Syria’s government is no longer in danger of being toppled and the risk of the country being divided has passed.
The comments came as the powerful movement continues to fight alongside Syria’s army against rebel forces across the neighboring war-torn country.
Nasrallah denied Hezbollah’s role in Syria was unpopular in Lebanon, and said the group’s recent battle in Syria’s Qalamoun had lessened the risks of bomb blasts back home.
“In my opinion, the phase of bringing down the regime or bringing down the state is over,” he told the newspaper in an interview.
“I think we have passed the danger of division” of the country, he added.
“They cannot overthrow the regime, but they can wage a war of attrition,” the Hezbollah chief said.
Nasrallah also said he believed supporters of the uprising were tempering their expectations for an opposition defeat of the government.
“The regional and international situation has changed,” he said.
“In my view, the pressure on the regime in the coming phase will be less than in the past three years, in terms of political pressure, media pressure and pressure on the ground.”
He dismissed recent rebel operations in Latakia province, where the opposition has gained ground, and said talk of a major offensive by rebels was simply “exaggeration.”
The Latakia front “is a limited operation… but it created a big fuss in the media,” Nasrallah said.
“For all the talk about the big battle to come, we’ve seen nothing of it so far,” he added.
Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria’s conflict has raised tension in Lebanon, where many supporters of the uprising and others including opponents from the March 14 movement blame the group for endangering Lebanon.
But Nasrallah denied that public sentiment was opposed to the group fighting in Syria.
“There is a large public feeling that supports the step of Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria,” he said.
“Many Lebanese, even inside March 14, believe and accept that the intervention in Syria protects Lebanon from the terrorist groups whose behavior and actions we see on a daily basis.”
“So we do not feel alienated,” he said, adding that many political and religious forces in the country had expressed their support “behind closed doors, which increases our confidence in this position.”
Hezbollah and its supporters have paid a heavy price for their involvement, with jihadist groups targeting parts of Lebanon where the movement holds sway with multiple deadly bombings.
But Nasrallah said a recent victory by the Syrian regime in the Qalamoun region adjacent to Lebanon, in which Hezbollah played a key role, had helped decrease the threat of such attacks.
“We can say that the risk of explosions has dropped significantly because of the developments in Qalamoun, which led to the closure of car bomb factories and centers,” he said.
Nasrallah said Lebanese security forces had also stepped up their efforts to arrest militants behind the attacks.
“In general we can talk about a significant decline in this risk, but we can’t say it has been completely eliminated.”