BEIRUT – Hezbollah's leader warned Israel Tuesday that the militant group would fire rockets at Tel Aviv airport and other strategic targets if Israel's military strikes Lebanese infrastructure.
Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war in 2006, and in recent months both sides have exchanged tough words of warning. The new threat from Hezbollah is backed up by what the group says is an arsenal of thousands of rockets and missiles, some of which it says can reach anywhere in Israel.
Hassan Nasrallah said the group's rockets would also target buildings in Israel's seaside metropolis of Tel Aviv if Israeli warplanes strike buildings in Hezbollah's stronghold in Beirut's southern outskirts.
During the 2006 fighting, Hezbollah slammed about 4,000 rockets into Israel, while Israel bombed the group's strongholds in Lebanon's south and east as well as its headquarters in the Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh.
The war killed around 1,200 people in Lebanon and 160 in Israel.
Israel also destroyed dozens of Dahiyeh buildings, including Nasrallah's offices, and Israeli warplanes bombed Beirut's Rafik Hariri Airport. Hezbollah's retaliation deep inside Israel did not reach Tel Aviv.
Nasrallah said his group does not want war but if it happens Hezbollah will strike deep in Israel.
"You destroy a building in Dahiyeh and we will destroy buildings in Tel Aviv," Nasrallah said via a video link from a secret location.
His speech was broadcast to a rally commemorating the 2008 assassination of Hezbollah's top military commander, Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a car bomb in the Syrian capital of Damascus.
Hezbollah and Iran, its main backer, have blamed Israel for Mughniyeh's killing. Israel has denied involvement.
"If you bomb the airport of martyr Rafik Hariri in Beirut, we will bomb Ben Gurion's airport in Tel Aviv," Nasrallah said.
Thousands of supporters waved their fists in the air and chanted, "At your service, Nasrallah."
"If you bomb our ports, we will bomb your ports. If you bomb our oil refineries, we will bomb your oil refineries," said the black-turbaned Nasrallah. "If you bomb our factories, we will bomb your factories. If you bomb our electricity stations, we will bomb your electricity stations."
He said Hezbollah has thousands of militants ready to face any Israeli ground invasion.
During the 2006 war, Nasrallah had also warned that he had weapons that could reach Tel Aviv, about 60 miles from the Lebanese border.
Although the city was never targeted, Hezbollah's targets struck deeper inside Israel than ever before, hitting on at least one occasion the town of Hadera, about 30 miles north of Tel Aviv.
Israel is working on a defense system called the Iron Dome that is designed to knock down short-range rockets like those used by Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza. The system, which fires projectiles at the incoming rocket to blow it up in mid-air, was successfully tested in December. Israeli media say the first battery could be in position in May.
However, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said last month that it would take years before the system is fully deployed.
In his speech Tuesday, Nasrallah also renewed a promise of revenge for Mughniyeh's killing.
"Our enemy is worried and let it continue to be worried," he said.