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Hezbollah to retaliate against Israel but war unlikely - deputy chief

Hezbollah to retaliate against Israel but war unlikely - deputy chief
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem gestures as he speaks during an interview with Reuters in Beirut, Lebanon March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Aziz Taher -
Aziz Taher(Reuters)
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BEIRUT (Reuters) – Hezbollah will retaliate against Israel after drones crashed in Beirut’s suburbs, but a new war between the old enemies remains unlikely, the Iran-backed movement’s deputy leader has said.

“I rule out that the atmosphere is one of war, it is one of a response to an attack,” Sheikh Naim Qassem told Russia’s RT Arabic channel on Tuesday night. “Everything will be decided at its time.”

Lebanon’s Hezbollah is preparing a “calculated strike” in response to the drones but seeks to avoid a new war with Israel, two sources allied to the Shi’ite Muslim movement told Reuters earlier on Tuesday.

Israel has not claimed responsibility for the two drones that crashed in the Hezbollah-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut at the weekend, with one them exploding.

Israeli officials have declined to comment when asked if Israel was responsible for the drones, which Hezbollah says were rigged with explosives.

But in a speech on Sunday, Nasrallah described it as the first Israeli attack in Lebanon since the two sides fought a month-long war in 2006.

In response to questions about the origin or target of the drones, Qassem did not give details.

He said Hezbollah deemed it an attack that it must respond to, so that Israel does not upset the status quo and set its own terms.

“We want the strike to be a surprise…and so there is no interest in diving into the details,” he added. “The coming days will reveal this.”

(Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Michael Georgy and Andrew Heavens)

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