Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Sunday his terrorist army is much stronger than before the Second Lebanon War and can destroy Israel. He issued the threat at a Boy Scout ceremony as a response to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's remark last week that "if Lebanon becomes a Hizbullah state, then we won't have any restrictions" in striking the country.
The Prime Minister claimed that during the last war, Israel did not use all of its firepower because the enemy was Hizbullah and not its host country Lebanon.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has sent United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon a letter protesting Olmert's remarks. Siniora, at a meeting with his Cabinet, accused Israel of "once again… threatening to launch a new attack on Lebanon, forgetting that the [Israeli] occupation was the core of the problem for Lebanon and the region."
The flurry of threats and warnings came two days after a report in the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera that three Hizbullah leaders visited Russia in July to clinch a deal involving the purchase of anti-tank missiles and air-defense systems. Israel disclosed evidence during the Second Lebanon War that Hizbullah used advanced Russian anti-tank missiles smuggled from Syria, in violation of previous international agreements.
Nasrallah said, in a speech televised by the Hizbullah-backed Al Manar satellite network, that his arsenal of weapons is so great that "the Zionists will think not one thousand times but tens of thousands of times before they attack Lebanon."
The prospect of an Israeli attack on Iran's growing nuclear threat also played a hand in Hizbullah's latest threats. Mohammed Raad, the head of the terrorist party's political bloc in the Lebanese government, warned, "The first shot fired from the Zionist entity toward Iran will be met by a response of 11,000 rockets in the direction of the Zionist entity. This is what military leaders in the Islamic Republic [Iran] have confirmed."
Hizbullah has become a stronger political force in Lebanon since the end of the war two summers ago, winning enough representation in the Cabinet to veto any major decisions.
Syria, which aided Hizbullah in the Second Lebanon War, last week established diplomatic relations with Lebanon for the first time in history, providing Syrian President Bashar Assad with a stronger political base in Beirut's affairs after having withdrawn its military from Lebanon before the 2006 war.
Syria has dominated Lebanese affairs for 30 years, and the West has joined Lebanese opponents of Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs in accusing Damascus of being behind the the 2005 assassination of anti-Syrian former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The new Lebanese government that gives Hizbullah more power assures Syria that it still can influence affairs in Lebanon, with the naming of Michel Suleiman as president. He is close to Syria and was the Lebanese army chief for 10 years during the Syrian army's control of the country.
"It's a win-win situation," said Patrick Seale, a British expert on Syria told the Associated Press. "The Lebanese get diplomatic recognition and the Syrians get recognition of vital interests in Lebanon."