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Hezbollah says its leaders are ready – Israel strengthening its forces on the border

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrilla group said on Saturday its field commanders were ready to respond to a drone attack in Beirut a week ago that it blamed on Israel, after the Israeli army ordered its troop buildup near the border with Lebanon.

Tensions between the Iranian-backed group and its foe Israel have increased since two drones crashed in Beirut’s southern suburbs. Both sides fought a month-long war in 2006.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech that all options were in place to confront Israeli drones that violated Lebanese sovereignty.

He said drones such as those used in the Beirut attack “open the door to killings and assassinations in Lebanon” if not answered.

“This cannot be tolerated. The Israeli must pay for his attack.”

The Israeli government has accused Iran of stepping up efforts to provide Hezbollah with facilities to produce precision-guided missiles, warning Beirut of a possible escalation of Israeli counter-strikes.

The Israeli army said on Saturday that its ground, air, naval and intelligence forces had stepped up preparations for various scenarios in the northern command area over the past week.

The army posted Twitter photos of tanks and ground troops being deployed.

The Israeli army, without claiming responsibility for the drone attack, offered what it described as details of an expanded Iranian-sponsored campaign to provide Hezbollah with means to produce precision-guided missiles.

– Rules of engagement –

Accurate rockets could be a counter-balance to Israel’s massive military might in any future war, as they can accurately reach their target and destroy important infrastructure sites.

Nasrallah accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of seeking an excuse for an attack to change the rules of engagement with Hezbollah. “Netanyahu wants to look for an argument for aggression, to bomb, to attack, to change the equation, to impose new rules of engagement,” he said.

He denied that Hezbollah had factories to produce those rockets. “We have enough precision missiles and we do not have precision missiles,” he said.

A new conflict between Hezbollah and Israel could destabilize the Middle East, which is already witnessing an increase in tension between the United States and Iran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the United States in a Twitter tweet of “piracy of the threat” to prevent Tehran from selling oil after Washington blacklisted an Iranian oil tanker, saying it was destined for Syria.

Washington has also tightened sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear ambitions.

Israel is concerned about the growing regional influence of Iran and its armed groups, such as Hezbollah, in countries such as Syria and Iraq.

Shi’ite militant groups in Iraq, many backed by Iran, have blamed the United States and Israel for recent explosions in their armories.

Politics also plays a role as Netanyahu seeks to appear decisive ahead of an election he is running in three weeks.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards founded Hezbollah in 1982 and the group fought its last war with Israel in 2006 after it captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid.

The conflict has killed nearly 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 158 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

“The resistance is not interested in saying what the response is,” Nasrallah said. “We are very concerned that the enemy remains confused because we have kept all possibilities open.”

Nasrallah also declined to give a date for any possible response. It is in the hands of the field commanders who know what to do, what is the idea, what is the proposition, what is the project, what is the horizon, what are the limits?”

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