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Hezbollah could & # 39; for years & # 39; go into Israel, the group leader says after tunnels found



BEIRUT (Reuters) – Iran-backed Hezbollah has "for years" been able to enter Israel, the leader of the Lebanese group said on Saturday, for the first time to respond to Israel's discovery of tunnels dug into Israeli territory from Lebanon .

FILE PHOTO: An Israeli soldier lowers a camera down an Israeli buried hole into a cross-border tunnel dug from Lebanon to Israel, seen on the Israeli side of the border near Metula on December 19, 2018. REUTERS / Ronen Zvulun / File photo [19659003] Israel's disclosure of what it called Hizbollah "attack tunnels" last month, and Lebanon's accusation of an Israeli frontier crossing into its territory has increased tensions.

Israel regards Iran as its greatest enemy and Hezbollah as the greatest threat to its borders. It has led an increasingly open campaign for military strikes against both of them in Syria, where they are fighting on the government side of the civil war.

In an interview with al-Mayadeen television, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said that Hezbollah did not want to draw Lebanon into a war with Israel.

But he said there was a fear that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could miscalculate before Israeli elections in April and "do something rash".

He warned that the "resistance axis" referred to by the group itself, Iran and Syria, could change their response to Israeli strikes in Syria, including a bombing in Tel Aviv.

Both Israel and Hezbollah have already stated that any new war between them would be greater than the last one fought in 2006 in Lebanese territory.

"Part of our plan in the next war is to enter Galilee, part of our plan we are able, God willing. The important thing is that we have that capacity and we have had it For years, "Nasrallah said.

He added that all Israel would be the battlefield and reiterated that the group now had precision rockets that could penetrate deep into Israel.

DISCUSSIONS

Nasrallah stopped briefly to say clearly that the tunnels were the work of Hezbollah and cited the strongly armed group's "ambiguity" policy on military matters and a desire to deny Israel a pretext to attack.

He said that Israel was still looking for more tunnels, despite saying its operation to find them was over. He said Israel had only discovered some tunnels and added "it's not known" if there are more.

This week, the UN envoy in the Middle East said at least two of the tunnels found by Israel crossed the "blue line" between the countries "and thus constituted offenses".

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the war in 2006, said that both sides should stick to their side of the blue line and that Hezbollah should leave the area around the border.

The blue line is a decade old boundary line which both parties have agreed to adhere to until they can agree on a formal delimitation of the disputed border.

The envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, told the United Nations that peacekeepers had not accessed the Lebanese entry point for one of the tunnels.

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah moves as he addresses his followers through a screen in Beirut, Lebanon on August 14, 2018. REUTERS / Aziz Taher

Nasrallah stated that the tunnels had been dug for long ago, and that it was "a surprise" Israel took so long to find them.

"One of the discovered tunnels goes back 13 years," he said, claiming it was outdated Resolution 1701, but without discussing how old other tunnels were.

Reporting of Laila Bassam and Suleiman al-Khalidi; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing Edmund Blair and Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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