Saudi Arabia halted $4 billion in military and security aid to Lebanon on Friday over what it called “the seizure…of the state administration” by the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah.
Lebanese Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi resigned his post two days later in protest of Hezbollah’s influence, stating that “there is an armed party that is dominating the government’s decisions.” Abdulrahman al-Rashed, the former editor-in-chief of Asharq al-Awsat, wrote Monday that Hezbollah has “intensified its efforts to take over authority [in Lebanon]….Hezbollah has deliberately undertaken the role of the party sabotaging the state and obstructing its affairs.” He described how the group has “employed Lebanese military institutions” for its own gain both in Syria and inside of Lebanon, as well as using the foreign ministry to support Iranian causes.
Hezbollah’s growing dominance of Lebanese state institutions has coincided with its military build-up in the country’s south. The Times reported last May that Israeli military officials believed Hezbollah has moved most of its rockets and other military infrastructure in and around Shiite villages, which “amounts to using the civilians as a human shield.” Israeli officials warned that there will likely be high civilian casualties in a future conflict because of Hezbollah’s military integration inside civilian areas. “We will hit Hezbollah hard, while making every effort to limit civilian casualties as much as we can,” a senior military official told the Times, but “we do not intend to stand by helplessly in the face of rocket attacks.” The Times of Israel reported in November that Israeli officials believe Hezbollah has stockpiled around 150,000 rockets, “including a number of long range Iranian-made missiles capable of striking Israeli cities from north to south.”
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened last week to strike Israel’s ammonia gas storage tanks in Haifa, declaring that it would have a nuclear bomb-like effect that would kill tens of thousands of Israelis. “We can say that Lebanon today has a nuclear bomb, seeing as any rocket that might hit these tanks is capable of creating a nuclear bomb effect,” he boasted.
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