BEIRUT, Lebanon — Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said Monday his group possesses an arsenal of rockets that can reach all of Israel, including Tel Aviv.
“We could absolutely reach any corner and any point in occupied Palestine,” Nasrallah said in an interview aired by Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera and Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television.
Celebratory gunshots and fireworks erupted in Beirut’s southern suburbs for several minutes as the interview began and after it ended.
Nasrallah said last year’s war between Israel and Hezbollah did not succeed in diminishing his group’s military capabilities. Repeating earlier claims, the Hezbollah leader said his group could already have fired at Tel Aviv last summer during the conflict, but had avoided doing so.
“In July and August 2006, there wasn’t a place in occupied Palestine that the rockets of the resistance could not reach, be it Tel Aviv or other cities,” he said, describing Israel and the Hezbollah guerrillas in terms usually used by the group.
“We could absolutely do that now,” he added.
Israel military disagrees
In Israel, senior military officials said that Hezbollah is not capable of striking all parts of Israel, but its missiles can reach the northern Tel Aviv area, which is about 60 miles south of the border with Lebanon.
Although Hezbollah has succeeded in restoring much of its arsenal since the end of the war last year, it does not have the same military might that it had at the start of the fighting, the officials said on condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Hezbollah’s rearmament “is a direct and grave violation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701,” which ended last year’s war.
“The international community must hold accountable those governments, namely Syria and Iran, who by supplying weapons to Hezbollah are deliberately trying to undermine the United Nations, the Lebanese government and peace and stability in the region,” he said.
Nasrallah has previously said his group increased its stock of missiles since the war ended, despite attempts to keep arms from being smuggled into southern Lebanon.
Claims have more rockets
In a speech in October, he said the guerrillas had 33,000 rockets — up from the 22,000 he said they had on Sept. 22.
Hezbollah fired nearly 4,000 rockets at northern Israel during the 34-day conflict, including several medium-range missiles that for the first time hit Israel’s third-largest city, Haifa.
Nasrallah also insisted Monday that Israel had failed to hit any important Hezbollah cache during the war.
Nasrallah warned during the war that he had weapons that could reach Tel Aviv. Although the city was never targeted, Hezbollah’s targets struck deeper inside Israel than ever before, hitting on at least one occasion the town of Hadera, 30 miles north of Tel Aviv.
The war began on July 12, 2006, after Hezbollah fighters crossed into Israel, killing three soldiers and seizing two. Israel then invaded southern Lebanon and pounded the country with massive bombardments that destroyed most roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
More than 1,000 Lebanese —mostly civilians— were killed in the fighting, while 158 Israelis died, including 119 soldiers.
Nasrallah refused to say Monday whether the two Israeli soldiers were alive or dead.
Nasrallah, who remains in hiding since last year for fear of an Israeli assassination, also denied media reports that he lived in Syria or in the Iranian embassy in Beirut during the war.
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