Lebanon’s army chief on Tuesday warned of an “Israeli threat” and urged his soldiers to be ready for a conflict with the Jewish state.
“I call upon you for full readiness at the southern border to face the threats of the Israeli enemy and its violations, and what it is indicating in aggressive intentions towards Lebanon, its people and its army,” the Lebanese army’s Twitter account quoted Gen. Joseph Aoun as saying during a speech commemorating the 74th anniversary of the country’s independence.
Despite its status, the Lebanese Armed Forces is seen as largely weak and ineffective compared to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization, which many consider the most powerful armed group in Lebanon. At the same time, Hezbollah wields considerable influence within the Lebanese government, as the terror group’s “political wing” is part of the country’s governing coalition.
Aoun’s statements come amid increasing tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, as well as concerns over Iranian expansion and aggression in the Middle East. Israel has raised alarm about Iran’s moves to establish a permanent presence in neighboring Syria as that country’s civil war winds down. Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have also risen in recent weeks, following the sudden resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri during his visit with the Saudis.
Meanwhile, the Arab League on Monday condemned Iran and Hezbollah, accusing them of supporting “terrorist groups” in the Middle East.
In response, Lebanese President Michel Aoun defended Hezbollah, saying the group is necessary for protecting Lebanon from Israeli “aggression.”
“Lebanon was able to face the Israeli aggression since 1978 until the 2006 [Israel-Hezbollah] war. It was able to liberate its land. Israeli threats are still ongoing; the Lebanese have the right to fight and thwart it with all available means,” he said.