Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has mocked Israel’s new Defense Minister Benny Gantz during an interview marking 20 years since the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon.
“The Defense Minister of the enemy state Benny Gantz was the one who locked the [border] gate on May 24, 2000. The main leaders of the occupying entity today have lived the experience in southern Lebanon. [The Israelis] have lived obsessively since 2006 until today. They are afraid to take any step. They admit that they could not prevent the growing resistance,” Nasrallah said in a radio interview on Tuesday.
The head of the Lebanese Hezbollah group also on Tuesday rejected a US request to empower a UN peacekeeping force patrolling the border with Israel.
Nasrallah spoke ahead of a UN Security Council vote this summer to renew the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
“The Americans, as the result of Israeli demands, are raising the issue of changing the nature of UNIFIL’s mission,” Nasrallah said in a radio interview to mark 20 years since Israel withdrew from Lebanon.
“Lebanon has refused to change UNIFIL’s mission, but Israel wants... it to have the right to raid and search private properties, and the Americans are pressuring Lebanon on this matter,” Nasrallah said.
In August last year, the UN Security Council voted to renew UNIFIL’s mandate for a year.
But the resolution included a requirement – on the insistence of the United States, diplomats said – for the UN secretary general to perform an evaluation on the UNIFIL mission and its staff before June 1, 2020.
“We are not against UNIFIL staying,” Nasrallah said.
But “the time of deeming Lebanon to be weak is over, and Israel cannot impose conditions on Lebanon, even behind an American mask.”