Israel is working hard to keep chemical weapons out of the hands of the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told a Knesset committee Thursday.
Israel does not usually acknowledge foreign military actions, but Liberman told European diplomats Wednesday—the same day that the Mazzeh military airport near Damascus was reportedly hit by surface-to-surface missiles, and a week after two strikes elsewhere in Syria—that that his country was taking action to keep Hezbollah from acquiring “advanced weapons, military equipment and weapons of mass destruction.” His latest comments to the Knesset seemed to suggest that at least one of the strikes was in order to stop Hezbollah from acquiring chemical weapons.
“Our policies and our positions are very clear and are based on three red lines: We won’t allow any harm to the citizens of the State of Israel, we won’t allow any harm to the sovereignty of the State of Israel, and we will not allow the smuggling of high-quality advanced weapons and chemical weapons from Syria to Lebanon for Hezbollah,” Liberman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Liberman added that Israel has no interest in immersing itself in Syria’s civil war, but the country would enforce its “red lines” as necessary “without considerations for any other circumstances or limitations.”
Israeli leaders have made it clear in public statements and conversations with foreign leaders that they will act to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring “game-changing” weapons or strengthening its positions on Israel’s borders.
Hezbollah reportedly has an arsenal of 130,000 rockets, more than the combined total of all 27 non-U.S. NATO member states.
According to a July report published by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Israeli officials believe that any future war with Hezbollah has the potential to cause “thousands of civilian deaths” in Israel. Hezbollah has, among other things, threatened to attack ammonium tanks in Haifa, which could kill tens of thousands of people.
The think tank’s vice president for research, Jonathan Schanzer, explained that Hezbollah’s widely-reported tactic of hiding military assets in civilian areas would also lead to mass casualties. Reports emerged two years ago that Hezbollah was offering reduced-price housing to Shi’ite families who allowed the terrorist group to store rocket launchers in their homes. An Israeli defense official told The New York Times in May 2015 that the buildup of Hezbollah’s terror infrastructure in southern Lebanese villages meant that “civilians are living in a military compound” and that their lives were at risk. A few days later, a newspaper linked to Hezbollah bolstered the Israeli assessment.
Earlier this week, the IDF declassified a map showing that Hezbollah had hidden thousands of military assets in civilian areas in Lebanese areas bordering northern Israel.
[Photo: Yonatan Sindel / Flash90 ]