TEL AVIV — Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah assured supporters Tuesday that it is deterring a third war in Lebanon with its enhanced capabilities, including the ability to extract damage akin to a "nuclear bomb" with one successful salvo strike on an ammonia storage facility in Israel's northern city of Haifa.
In a televised speech commemorating Martyr Leaders Day in Beirut, Nasrallah cited reports in the Israeli media about the vulnerabilities of an ammonia storage tank in Haifa Bay containing more than 15,000 tons of ammonia gas.
"The inhabitants of Haifa are afraid of an attack … that will lead to the death of tens of thousands of inhabitants out of a population of some 800,000. What does this mean? It means that a few missiles on this ammonia site could have the result of a nuclear bomb," Nasrallah said, according to a simultaneous English translation carried on Iran's Press TV.
"The resistance in Lebanon, which is supported by the people, have new capabilities, offensive and defensive. We are capable of inflicting defeat on Israel in any war."
Invoking the name of Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkott, the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, who as director of operations during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war championed the so-called Dahiya doctrine of high-intensity, asymmetric urban battle, Nasrallah said Hezbollah is capable of offsetting Israeli military superiority.
"Eisenkott speaks about the Dahiya equation," Nasrallah said of the Shiite stronghold in south Beirut. "He speaks about the need to completely bring south Beirut to rubble.
"So if you — Eisenkott — how many missiles will you need [to achieve this]? How many days?" Nasrallah said. "Our missiles can target any area in occupied Palestine. We must retain them because it will prevent a third Lebanon war. We must be ready for this war in order to prevent."
The Hezbollah leader assured supporters that "there is no need to fear an Israeli war" because "Israel decided that it would only wage war if a quick victory is guaranteed."
"The one thing that prevents Israel from launching a war — after the experience of the second Lebanon war ... is its knowledge that a clear, decisive and quick victory is not assured," he said. "We will not retreat, surrender or weaken. We will continue with our qualitative and quantitative and materiel capabilities. The psychological war against us will have no use."
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman, said the military has no comment on Nasrallah's Feb. 16 address.
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.