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'We vowed to respond.' Kassem
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Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo: Yaron Brener
Nasrallah's deputy: Hizbullah prepared for another conflict with Israel
Sheikh Naim Kassem tells Le Figaro Shiite groups 'reserves the right' to avenge Mugniyah assassination,' but adds 'this won’t justify a declaration of war on Israel's part'

Hizbullah is prepared for the possibility of another armed conflict with Israel, but it "has no interest in another war in Lebanon," the Shiite group's deputy secretary-general said Friday.

 

In an interview with French daily Le Figaro, Sheikh Naim Kassem said Hizbullah plans to avenge the assassination of its senior commander Imad Mugniyah.

 

"We vowed to respond – and this is our right. This (response) won’t warrant a declaration of war on Israel's part, but in any case Israel does not need any excuse to initiate hostile acts," he said.

 

"We are prepared for the possibility of such a conflict, but I don’t believe that under the current circumstances Israel has an interest in waging another war in Lebanon. The offensive in Gaza proved that the Israeli army has not drawn any lessons from the 2006 war (in Lebanon), and it remains incapable of translating its military force into diplomatic achievements."

 

During the interview Kassem denied any Hizbullah involvement in the recent launchings of Katyusha rockets toward Israel's northern region, saying "we reserve the right to retaliate to any act of aggression, but under the current circumstances firing rockets into Israel would not be justified.

 

"Israel's defeat – both militarily and psychologically – is clear. The war in 2006 proved once again the need for armed resistance," the sheikh told Le Figaro.

 

Turning his attention to Israeli politics, Kassem said he saw "no difference" between Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, Labor leader Ehud Barak and Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni.

 

"Israel's policy is that of an aggressive nation," he said, adding that he believed the peace process between Israel and Syria was doomed to fail "because Israel wants to impose its conditions without making any concessions."

 

Addressing US President Barack Obama' administration, Kassem said "I don’t have too much hope. His (Obama's) initial statements (regarding the Palestinian issue) are similar to those made by his predecessor, who had expressed unconditional support for Israel and showed that he did not respect the Palestinian people's democratic choice." 

 

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