On the backdrop of reports that Syria has transferred Scud missiles to Hezbollah, the organization's deputy secretary-general said, "Israel's threats are an evasion attempt, but this does not mean that a war is imminent."
In an interview published in London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat on Saturday, Sheikh Naim Qassem said his organization "is, at the current time, more satisfied with its situation than it has ever been in the past." He said the criticism that has been voiced against Hezbollah's possession of arms "passes over us like a drizzle of light rain."
Hassan Nasrallah's deputy said reports that his organization was armed with Scud missiles by Syria are an Israeli attempt to conceal its deteriorating ties with the United States and to hide its nuclear weapons. He said he does not believe the recent developments indicate that Israel may launch an assault, but added that Hezbollah is on the alert nonetheless.
Qassem said the Scud affair is "an inseparable part of Israel and the United State's attempt to divert attention from the difficult chapter in the ties between the two, and is also an attempt to divert attention from the existence of Israeli nuclear weapons, from the aggressive activity carried out in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and from the internal crisis which projects on Israel's image in the world."
The Hezbollah deputy head wished to maintain ambiguity on the matter and said, "We neither confirm, nor deny, any details of the existence of weapons in Hezbollah's possession. Raising the issue at this time stems from a political need unrelated to its content."
Qassem also questioned the credibility of the report, which was first published in Kuwaiti paper al-Rai. "Look how this report was leaked. It's a report from a newspaper in the Gulf that is based on an American source that has no accuracy or information. All interpretations were built on this source and refer to the report as if it were true," he said.
On Friday, American sources said it was unclear whether the missiles were indeed transferred to the Lebanese group.
"We think the intent is there," a senior US official told Reuters. "We believe a transfer of some kind occurred but it is unclear if the rockets themselves have changed hands," the senior official said.
Another official said doubts were growing that Syria had delivered the Scuds in full and allowed them to transit to Lebanese territory: "We don't believe it happened."
"It's unclear at this point that a transfer has occurred ... and the United States has no indications that the rockets have moved across the border," a third US official said.