Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. (AP/Hussein Malla) (AP/Hussein Malla)
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said ISIS is as great a threat to Lebanon as Israel and denied that the terrorist organization was ignoring the Israeli front.

Hezbollah

Hezbollah terrorists at the Lebanese-Syrian border. (AP/Bilal Hussein)

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah used the 15th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon to justify the terrorist organization’s presence in Syria. Nasrallah compared ISIS to Israel, claiming that Hezbollah was defending Lebanon from an existential threat. He also denied accusations that he was neglecting his commitment to fight Israel in order to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Lebanon has been desperately trying to avoid being sucked into the increasingly sectarian conflict. Over 700 Lebanese have already been killed, primarily in the recurring Sunni-Alawite clashes between the Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods in Tripoli. However, Hezbollah, which is funded by the Syrian and Iranian governments, ignored the policy of neutrality and entered the conflict on the side of the Assad regime long before international Islamist groups such as ISIS became a factor.

In a televised address, Nasrallah ridiculed Syrian rebel organizations, saying, “They cannot even return to the Syrian regions that are under the control of Daesh [ISIS] and al-Nusra.” He described ISIS as an existential threat and called on the Lebanese to “shoulder their responsibilities in the face of the threat” and “end their silence and neutrality” by taking the side of Assad.

Hezbollah Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon

Hezbollah celebrates the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon. (AP/Mohammed Zaatari)

Nasrallah compared ISIS to the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, saying that “history is repeating itself” and “the scheme that is threatening the region is this brutal takfiri [heretical] scheme that we are witnessing now.”

Israel entered Lebanon in 1982 to defend itself from terrorist attacks by the Palestine Liberation Organization, which established its center of operations in southern Lebanon after being expelled from Jordan. The IDF was assisted by the Lebanese Christians, who were on the opposing side of the Civil War from the PLO. Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 after Israeli public opinion turned against a continued presence in the country.

Hezbollah falsely claims that Israel continues to occupy Lebanese territory as a pretext for refusing to disarm in violation of the Taif Accords that ended the Lebanese Civil War. The terrorist organization has used these arms not only to attack Israel, but also against the Lebanese Army in order to give itself veto power over the Lebanese government.

On the anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal, Nasrallah told supporters gathered in Nabatiyeh that Hezbollah has “not abandoned [the Israeli] front and will not abandon it. We must be present today on two fronts. We continue to be active on the front with Israel, and other issues are not distracting us.”

However, he admitted for the first time that the terrorist organization is deployed throughout Syria and that it may take all of Hezbollah’s forces to defeat ISIS.

IDF Hezbollah training

An IDF soldier jumps into a tunnel in a simulated Hezbollah base. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

The pro-Lebanese newspaper As-Safir published a report on Friday indicating that Hezbollah has an extensive network of tunnels in southern Lebanon. Unlike Hamas’s terror tunnels, which are intended for infiltrating Israel, Hezbollah uses its tunnels to facilitate firing rockets and missiles into Israeli territory. The terrorist organization is presently capable of hitting anywhere in Israel using a massive arsenal concealed under Shi’ite villages.

“Anyone who thinks the organization’s presence in Syria comes at the expense of our presence here in the heart of the south is mistaken. Israel is well aware of this, and if it weren’t, it would not hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity,” the article said.