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Israeli PM warns Hezbollah over Galilee threat

Lebanon`s Hezbollah threatened to take over the Galilee in northern Israel.

Updated: Feb 17, 2011, 12:09 PM IST

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Lebanon`s Hezbollah on Wednesday against any attack, after the Shi’ite militia threatened to take over the Galilee in northern Israel.

"Nasrallah declared today (Wednesday) that he will conquer the Galilee," said Netanyahu, referring to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. "I have news for him. He won`t."

His remarks came after Nasrallah urged his fighters to be prepared to take Galilee in any future conflict and warned that militants with the Shi’ite militia were ready to kill Israeli leaders "anytime, anywhere”.

"There is no doubt Israel has the ability to defend itself," Netanyahu told delegates at a conference of American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.

"We have a strong Army and a determined people. We seek peace but the Army is ready to defend Israel against its enemies."

Nasrallah`s threats were made during a televised speech the 19th anniversary of the death of key Hezbollah militant Abbas Mussawi who was killed when a missile struck his car in an attack blamed on Israel.

"I say to the fighters of the Islamic Resistance: Be ready. If a new war is imposed on Lebanon we may ask you to take Galilee, to free Galilee," he said. "I hope the people of Israel have good bomb shelters."

Nasrallah also vowed that the death of Imad Mughnieh, killed in a February 2008 car bombing also blamed on Israel, would not be forgotten or go unpunished.

"To the Zionist generals, I say: Anywhere you go in the world, at any time, watch out, for the blood of Imad Mughnieh will not go to waste," he said.

The Hezbollah leader`s fiery rhetoric followed remarks by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak that the Israeli military may have to enter Lebanon again to ensure the Shi’ite militia remembered the lessons of the 2006 war.

"Even though it`s quiet and deterrence exists -- Hezbollah remembers the heavy beating they suffered from us in 2006 -- it is not forever, and you may be called to go back again," Barak said on Tuesday during a tour of the northern border with the new military Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

"We must be prepared for every test," he said. "The secret is reacting fast in the event that something happens, and within seconds, translating everything you learned in your training."

The 2006 war killed 1,200 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Every year around the anniversary of the militants` deaths, Israel issues a travel warning and puts its overseas embassies on alert for fear of reprisal attacks.

On Tuesday, Israel temporarily closed four of its diplomatic missions after receiving threats they could come under attack.

And last week, Israel`s anti-terrorism bureau warned against travel to Egypt and eight other countries, saying there was an increased threat of attacks against Israelis and Jewish targets in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Turkey and Venezuela.

Top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh was killed in a car bombing in Damascus on February 12, 2008, while Abbas Mussawi, the group`s secretary general, was killed by an Israeli missile on February 16, 1992.

Bureau Report