Hezbollah chief says Israel fighting 'imaginary battle' in Syria

Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iran-aligned Lebanese Hezbollah, accuses Israel of targeting missile-manufacturing sites in Syria.

al-monitor A poster depicting Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is seen near an empty street amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Adaisseh village, near the Lebanese-Israeli border, Lebanon, March 26, 2020. On May 13, Nasrallah discounted an Israeli official's goal of driving Iran out of Syria. Photo by REUTERS/Aziz Taher.

May 14, 2020

The leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah accused Israel yesterday of targeting missile-manufacturing sites in Syria as part of an “imaginary battle” against Iranian troops. 

“Israel sees the missile production capability on Syrian soil a threat, which is why it attacks everything connected with missile production in Syria,” Hassan Nasrallah said during televised remarks. 

Since 2011, Israel has launched airstrikes into neighboring Syria targeting Hezbollah, Iranian troops and Iranian-backed militias fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In recent weeks, war monitors have reported a series of alleged Israeli strikes against Iranian targets near the capital Damascus, the eastern Deir Ez-Zor region and Aleppo province. 

Nasrallah insisted only Iranian "military advisers and experts," not troops, were present in Syria.

He also took aim at Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s stated goal of ridding Syria of Iranian forces within a year, and turning the war-torn country into Tehran’s “Vietnam.”

“Bennett said stupidly that by the end of 2020 he will expel Iran from Syria. Take notice of that date — end of 2020 — and we shall see,” he said.

Israeli defense officials said last week that Iranian troops had begun scaling back their presence in Syria and closing bases following the recent air attacks. 

US special envoy for Syria policy James Jeffrey somewhat pushed back on those reports, but said Tuesday that US economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic were causing the country to make some adjustments on the Syrian battlefield. 

On the domestic front, the government in Lebanon, which took office in January with Hezbollah's backing, is dealing with mass protests against the political elite and a debt-ridden economy made worse by the country’s coronavirus outbreak. Last month, Germany designated the entirety of Hezbollah, including its political arm, a terrorist organization.

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