Speaking before a huge crowd in south Beirut on Wednesday, Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned his movement was ready for a new conflict if necessary, adding that: ‘Lebanon’s war was just a walk in the park compared to what we have in store for you.’
“I tell Olmert, the looser, disappointed, defeated in Lebanon: you will not be able to eradicate Hamas and you will not be able to eradicate Hizbollah. We are ready for any possibility or aggression,” said Nasrallah. But the question is whether Hizbollah – which denies any involvement in Thursday morning’s rocket attacks – has any interest in a new conflict. Israel claims that since the 2006 conflict, Hizbollah has trebled its military force to 42,000 missiles, able to hit targets as distant as Tel Aviv. But a new offensive could seriously harm Hizbollah’s image in a country still licking its wounds from the last war. Moreover, its political rivals could use such a move to demand disarmament – a delicate subject repeatedly discussed in several “national dialogue” meetings. The parliamentary majority wants the state to have full control over any weapons and war decisions. But Hizbollah, which has one representative in parliament, refuses to hand over its arsenal, arguing it is necessary in the event of aggression by Israel. Today, the Lebanese government has mostly lost control of the country. Hizbollah, which enjoys strong popular backing, rules in the south. Weakened by months of internal squabbling, the government no longer controls either the Shi’ite movement or the radical Palestinian militias. As for the UN soldiers in Lebanon, their role is limited. Set up in 1978, the force was reinforced in 2006. Made up of around 13,000 soldiers from 26 countries, its main mission is to stop the transit and stocking of illegal weapons in south Lebanon and protect the civilian population. But that is where its mandate ends.