Leader says Hezbollah can hit Israeli infrastructure in case of war, but won't confirm Scuds

BEIRUT (AP) — Hezbollah can strike infrastructure deep inside Israel if a new war breaks out, the group's leader said in remarks published Friday, but refused to confirm whether or not the militants have long-range Scud missiles.

The missiles have been at the center of new Mideast tensions since Israel earlier this month accused Syria of providing Hezbollah with the Scuds, which have a greater range and can carry a much bigger warhead than the rockets Hezbollah fired at Israel in the past.

Syria has denied the allegations, as has Lebanon's Western-backed prime minister.

Hezbollah's leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah indicated that the details of the group's weaponry are a secret.

"We don't speak through the media about the rockets we have or their details," Nasrallah said, according to Hezbollah's news website. He spoke in an interview Thursday with Kuwait's Rai TV.

"Do we have what is more or less sophisticated than a Scud missile — these are details I don't want to speak about," Nasrallah added. "If a war breaks out ... we said we will attack their (Israeli) infrastructure. We are able to fulfill these promises."

U.S. officials have not confirmed Hezbollah's possession of Scuds but say they are concerned about its growing arsenal of rockets and missiles. On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Syrian transfers of increasingly sophisticated weaponry, including rockets, to militants in southern Lebanon and Gaza could spark new conflict in the Middle East. Like Israel, the U.S. considers Hezbollah a terrorist group.

"Transferring weapons to these terrorists, especially longer-range missiles, would pose a serious threat to the security of Israel," Clinton said.

Nasrallah assailed those speaking about Hezbollah and the Scuds, saying they have failed to "give any evidence."

Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war in 2006 that left some 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead.

During the monthlong conflict, Hezbollah fired nearly 4,000 rockets at northern Israel, including several medium-range missiles that for the first time hit Israel's third-largest city, Haifa. Israeli weaponry, including warplanes, destroyed areas in southern and eastern Lebanon and Hezbollah's stronghold Dahiyeh south of Beirut.

Since the conflict, Nasrallah has said that Hezbollah amassed more than 30,000 rockets and can strike anywhere in Israel — claims that match Israeli intelligence assessments.

In related developments, Syria's Prime Minister Naji al-Otari said on Friday that Damascus and Iran will remain "steadfast and resist all pressures" exerted on their countries. He spoke during a joint news conference with visiting Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi.

Rahimi pledged Iran would stand alongside Syria in the face of any threat "with all our might."


Associated Press writer Albert Aji contributed to this report from Damascus.