BEIRUT – Syria will supply “game-changing” weapons to Hezbollah, the chief of the Lebanese militant group said Thursday, less than a week after Israeli airstrikes on Damascus targeted alleged shipments of advanced Iranian missiles bound for Hezbollah.
Israel has signaled it will respond with airstrikes to any future weapons shipments, meaning it could quickly get drawn into Syria’s civil war if the Hezbollah chief’s declaration is more than an empty threat
Tension has been rising in the region since Israel struck targets inside Syria on Friday and Sunday. Hezbollah and Israel fought several battles in the past three decades, including a 34-day war in 2006.
Israel has largely tried to stay out of Syria’s 26-month-old conflict. It never acknowledged the airstrikes, but Israeli officials have signaled Israel’s air force would strike against any shipments of strategic missiles that might be bound for Hezbollah.
Israeli officials say the Lebanese militant group has tens of thousands of rockets, though most of them are unguided. The shipments targeted last week included precision-guided missiles, the officials said.
Hezbollah chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has said in the past that his group has missiles that can strike anywhere in Israel.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah and Iran have become increasingly involved in Syria’s civil war, supplying troops and military advisers to help Syrian President Bashar Assad fight armed rebels trying to oust him.
Nasrallah spoke Thursday to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hezbollah’s radio station, Al-Nour. Nasrallah has rarely appeared in public since the 2006 war, for fear of being targeted by Israel.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah could expect strategic weapons from Syria in the future. He said the weapons shipments were Syria’s response to the Israeli airstrikes.
“This is the Syrian strategic reaction,” Nasrallah said. “This is more important than firing a rocket or carrying out an airstrike” against Israel.