BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon's Hezbollah group would fire thousands of rockets into Israel in any future war and target cities in the country's heartland, the group's leader said Sunday.
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah's warning came days after an eight-day Israeli offensive against Gaza ended with a truce. Nasrallah said Gaza militants had won "a clear victory" against Israel with their rocket bombardment.
Hezbollah, like Hamas and other Gaza militant factions, maintains a rocket arsenal and regularly threatens to use it. It fought an inconclusive 34-day war with the Jewish state in 2006 that left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead.
The Gaza war marked the first use by Palestinian factions of a longer ranged Iranian-made rocket, the Fajr-5. It caused no casualties but did trigger air raid warnings in the heartland cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which, unlike cities closer to the Lebanese and Gaza borders, have not experienced any sustained missile attack since Iraqi Scuds were fired in the 1991 Gulf War.
Hezbollah fired at least one long-range rocket ineffectually in the 2006 war. But Israeli intelligence now believes the militant group has the capability to strike anywhere in the country, although Israel now deploys air defense systems designed to counter the threat.
In the Gaza conflict, Israeli aircraft launched some 1,500 strikes on targets linked to the Palestinian territory's Hamas rulers and other groups, while Gaza militants fired roughly the same number of rockets into Israel.
Nasrallah said in a speech in Beirut that the Fajr-5 attacks "shook Israel." He asked: "How is it (Israel) going to stand thousands of rockets that will fall on Tel Aviv and other areas if it launches an aggression against Lebanon?"
Nasrallah spoke via a video link from a secret location to tens of thousands of supporters in Beirut who gathered to mark Ashoura, the annual Shiite commemoration of the 7th-century death of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson.