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Secretary General of Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah discusses with Al-Jazeera’s Ghassan Bin-Jiddu the current state of affairs in Lebanon and the capabilities of the party to strike any target inside of Israel.
GHASSAN BIN-JIDDU: Good evening esteemed viewers. God's peace be upon you. To mention the Israeli war against Lebanon last year and recall that it was ugly, fierce, and destructive will be to mention facts of history. However, to mention how the Lebanese people held out and recall how their resistance men fought is to highlight history so that history might not be forgotten, neglected, or lost.
To say that Israel has the strongest army in the region, is common knowledge, but to say that this Israeli army lost its self-esteem in Lebanon and lost its well-known description and image of the undefeatable army, is now a well-known fact. To review the aims that Israel announced a year ago and what the US Administration promised at that time to establish the new Middle East, is necessary in order to avoid the simplification of events and to consider this earthquake within its regional and international contexts and strategic dimensions.
But to review what Hezbollah itself did, politically and militarily, with an evaluating and critical eye and see what has changed in last year's scene from the Lebanese, Syrian, Iranian, Arab, Israeli, and US viewpoints is very essential to avoid such simplification.
To read the papers connected with the Israeli warship, the firing of the missiles, the battles of Maroun al-Ra's, Bint Jbeill, Ayta al-Sha'ab, and others southern towns would be useful and beautiful, but to know what happened behind the scenes during the battles, the decisions of the command, and the story of the warship and other secrets is more useful and more beautiful.
To recall how the Hezbollah secretary general spoke on this day last year and during the raging battle in his well-known television interview that occupied all television screens in the world, is to recall a chapter of pride, but to recall in reality these hidden factors, secrets, stands, and readings with the man who has all the secrets is to recall self-esteem; I allude to talking with and about His Eminence Al-Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
Welcome, Your eminence, we meet you after one year of the war but the difference between now and then is what Israeli Prime Minister Olmert has said: One of the indications of the Israeli victory is that Olmert is moving freely there and is speaking openly and talking to everyone but the Hezbollah secretary general is hiding, wandering from one alley of Beirut to another. What do you say?
SAYYED HASSAN NASRALLAH: In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. As a direct answer, I would say that since 1992, when the occupation forces - the Israeli Air Force - killed our secretary general, the Martyr Al-Sayyed Abbas al-Musawi, his wife, and his child, openly and in broad daylight, I have not been going about in the Beirut streets. It seems that Mr. Olmert does not know anything about the past. I do not go about in the streets, in Beirut, or elsewhere. A number of brothers and I have been cautious since that time, when the Israelis adopted the policy of outright political assassination, killing leaders along with their women and children.
However, in any case, Olmert forgot all the aims that he had announced. He said in the Knesset that he would not stop the war unless these aims were realized. He later found out that he had not realized any of them. He selected a thing that had already existed since 1992 to present as a great achievement; namely, that I do not wander about in the Beirut streets.
Therefore, I would like to tell Mr. Olmert that it does not matter where I wander, what is important is that we have foiled and destroyed your project that is linked to Greater Israel. I do not want to exaggerate by saying that we have foiled it as there are big challenges still lying ahead of us, but we have managed to destroy a great part of the Greater Israel project.
This is in addition to what our brothers realized during the Palestinian intifada before that because I consider the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip a withdrawal from part of historic Palestine, and this distorts the image of Greater Israel in one form or another. Here we are talking about the strategic results of the war.
GB: All of us want to understand some secrets and behind-the-scene events. Your eminence, what happened behind the scenes on the first day? You carried out the capture operation. What happened later? We want to talk about the behind-the-scene events and not about news conferences and other things. You had been braced for an attack, a war, or something like that. We want to know what happened during the first day of the battle. What happened?
HN: We had been preparing to carry out a capture operation for some time. The brothers had been planning and were always present in the area in which the operation was carried out. I can tell you - and I do not know if this will figure in the failures of the Israel army or not ...
GB: Do you mean the second Winograd Report?
HN: Yes. The brothers had been stationed in this area for several months; not less than three months, with very few periods of rest. We had been present in the area and lying in wait. We were waiting for the Israeli patrol but the Israelis never felt that we were present all this time. Civilian vehicles used to pass along that place but no military vehicles passed during the time of the ambush. Sometimes military vehicles passed, along with civilian cars.
From the beginning we did not want to harm civilians or capture civilians. We wanted military vehicles and soldiers in military uniform to be present during the capture operation. Therefore, the brothers concerned and I had expected the capture operation to take place and we had taken preliminary Steps. When the shooting began - and we were given the signal that the operation had started - those concerned moved to the operations room so that we might remain in contact with the brothers and we began to take measures that we had agreed to take in similar situations...
GB: You were personally present and were following up the operation?
HN: Of course. The command and main positions were evacuated. Even the surrounding residential areas, people who lived in the so-called Al-Shura area and the perimeter of the secretariat general, were evacuated because we had expected - and that was the minimum that we had expected - that they would bomb this particular area. Therefore, we evacuated it quickly. This explains the fact that no martyrs fell during the war in the so-called security square.
We were in contact with the brothers and they informed us of how the operation was being carried out. The capture operation was completed and the two soldiers were withdrawn to the rear lines with all speed. Within a very short time, we were reassured that the hands of the Israelis would not reach them. Judging by the field performance, it was clear that the Israelis were extremely surprised by the operation and there was no serious Israeli movement for half an hour except for localized movements; that, is by the nearby military position.
They tried to intervene and the first tank was hit. The second tank was also hit. I remember that at that time the first tank was not hit by a missile but by a big bomb on the roadside and it was torn into pieces. The second was also destroyed and the third tank was hit. Therefore, during the first few hours of the confrontation there was a number of destroyed tanks and vehicles and Israeli casualties, either killed or wounded.
After a period of time, the Israeli reaction began. They started shelling our points and positions along the border, the homes of the officials, and some of the places which they believed w ere Hezbollah positions. At the beginning the shelling continued unabated and then the confrontation began. We do not want to be drowned in minor details.
GB: By the way, concerning the two prisoners, we have learned from the French foreign minister that you informed the French side that they were still alive.
NH: That is not true. The French foreign minister is accurate and clever. He said: I understood that they are alive. In any case, the brothers do not answer such questions. This is left until the negotiations. We have a consensus in Hezbollah leadership that the only person authorized during the negotiations to give any information on matters related to these soldiers and their lives is me personally. The brothers did not present anything.
GB: [interrupting] Then we do not know now if they are still alive.
HN: Each word, each piece of information, and each gesture might be a factor in reaching a humanitarian result - prisoners, detainees, any other thing. Our past experience taught us so. Then why should we give information gratis?
GB: Your Eminence, when did you become certain that an open war had started? What did you do in the meantime, personally at least?
HN: We had believed that war would break out, that the Zionists would launch a war against Lebanon because of their defeat in 2000 in order to restore their self-esteem. Consider how psychologically complicated the Israelis were because of what happened in 2000. During the July war, some details were published about the Bint Jbeil battle.
It transpired that the background to the decision to enter the Bint Jbeil town was an order to the northern command to do it - and this means that the northern command neither prepared for it nor approved it. The order came from above; namely, go and occupy the Bin Jbeil town. What was the reason? This had to do with the political, psychological, and morale dimensions. After the Israeli withdrawal, there was a rally in Bint Jubeil. I made a speech there and said: It was flimsier than the spider web.
They wanted to prove to me, to the Lebanese, and to the Arabs and all Muslims, that Israel is made of steel that it is not as weak as a spider web. Look how the Israel mind is occupied with the psychological, political, and morale-related consequences of the 2000 defeat.
Therefore we had supposed that the Israelis would try to restore their deterrence and self-esteem and would retaliate against Lebanon, the Lebanese people, and the Lebanese resistance because of the 2000 defeat. That was why we were preparing. We were not resting. The people had been celebrating the victory anniversary as of 25 May and we started a new phase of preparation to face an upcoming war but we did not know when this war would break out.
Therefore, there was no need to declare a state of alert one or two months before that because the alert was there and the possibility of war had existed in any case. Of course we had a plan of confrontation. We had a detailed plan, including scenarios of an expected Israeli war and how to confront these scenarios. Therefore, theoretically, ...
GB: Then you had been prepared for what happened?
HN: Of course. Theoretically, psychologically, and from the morale viewpoint everything was prepared. Materially, our combat readiness was very high. Therefore, when the confrontation began on the first day, we had been expecting a reaction to the capture operations. This was natural. However, at night, and after the government decision, we declared general mobilization in all Lebanese areas. Therefore, all the human and material resources of Hezbollah were placed in the battle and we began the confrontation.
GB: Who was leading the fight?
HN: To be fair, we cannot speak of a single person or a number of persons and say that they were leading this war. There was a huge and widespread collective work. Of course, each of us played a role. The Hezbollah secretary general played a role during the management of the war. The other brothers had their roles. There was the jihadist dimension in the field, the social popular dimension, the media dimension, the political dimension. All the brothers were shouldering responsibilities, each in his own specialty.
There was a military command, a group of fit and efficient brothers. They were managing the war. Some of them were here in Beirut and some were sent to the south in addition to the commanders who left for the south the same day the hostilities began. Therefore, there was a system of leadership, if we want to be exact. Heading this military command system and the general confrontation command was naturally the secretary general because he is the head of the pyramid from the organizational and administrative viewpoints.
GB: Who made the definitive decisions? For instance, the missiles issue. The missiles were considered a strategic weapon for you. Who made the decisions on launching missiles - the quality, the number, the place and such things?
HN: The broad lines had already been decided. I told you that there were scenarios for the war and there were plans to confront these scenarios. The broad lines had already been drawn up by the Hezbollah leadership.
GB: Were contacts never lost?
HN: God be praised, never.
GB: Never, from the first to the last day? You were not taken by surprise at any time?
HN: In general contacts were available. There were several options. In any case, this is a technical issue. I can make an observation on this issue. After the second Qana massacre an agreement was reached to observe a 48-hour moratorium on the fighting for humanitarian reasons - they would stop the raids and the bombing and we would stop firing missiles. The resistance mujahidin were spreading out in valleys, hills, and high places.
They were dispersed groups. Ours is not a classic army. The forces that fire various kinds of missiles also were widely deployed in the south. You must have observed that during the truce agreement, which was a central decision made in Beirut, no missile was fired. Immediately after the 48 hours expired, 400 missiles were fired within a very brief period.
Before that, the Israelis explained this - because they never imagined or understood that there was such a level of resistance with such a high level of discipline and control - by saying that the Hezbollah missile power was neutralized. They could not believe that Hezbollah was able to control all its groups in the south, in Al-Biqa al-Gharbi and in various other areas for 48 hours and never fired a missile.
They had thought that the resistance's missile systems were hit and they were surprised that when the truce expired, the missile forces proved to be more effective and stronger than they had been before. This was an indication that, in general - I cannot be certain that contacts were never lost with a certain group - contacts and communications with the forces were clearly obvious.
GB: According to Israeli reports, it seemed that the Israeli intelligence was carefully watching you on the first day - and perhaps had been for years - and it discovered huge depots of missiles - Fajr 3 and Fajr 5. When these were extensively attacked, former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz considered that the war had ended after only a few hours. Perhaps he was surprised that missiles were being fired after that. Was this a decoy plan, a trick? Did you know that Israel discovered a certain place and that you had tricked Israel f or years? What happened?
HN: I absolutely assure you that the Israeli claims, especially during the first days, that they had hit missiles depots during the first days of the war were not true and that the places that were hit were not missiles depots, especially the missiles whose range was greater than 40 km. This is not true. This did not happen during the first days. Most probably they hit houses and civilian targets. I remember when they bombed some of our brothers with their wives and children that they said that they hit missiles depots. They were just homes.
GB: Halutz clearly said that the places that had been under their surveillance were destroyed. The Israeli government later said that it was all over.
HN: My brother, he declared victory. How many times did the Israelis declare victory? Halutz did, Olmert did.
GB: Was this a mistake by them or did you trick them, in this particular case?
HN: I do not know how they think. However, I can definitively say that the targets that they hit were not missile depots and that the missile depots were not bombed.
GB: There were many surprises during the war but the first and biggest surprise was the warship attack. We will listen to the secrets of the warship attack and how this happened after the following break. Please stay with us to see the rest of this Special Encounter episode with His Eminence Al-Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
GB: Welcome dear viewers. We continue with this Special Encounter episode with His Eminence Al-Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Before this break, I asked you about the warship issue. Please tell as about it frankly. We knew that you fired missiles and the warship was hit. What behind-the-scenes steps did you take.
HN: That day necessary consultations took place among the brothers and we made a decision that we would use this weapon that day. This was one of the secret weapons that the Israelis did not know we possessed. I can also say that the Israelis could not tolerate our having these weapons. Had they done so, this would have had an impact on the movements of their gunboats at sea. But they were relaxed during their movement in the sea and they supposed that we had no such weapons.
It was time to respond, given that a hard phase of the war had started and we should display the elements of strength that we possessed. We wanted to end the traditional phase. During the first days we fired Katyushas, which means that it was like the April war. During the July war we had not presented any new thing. The first thing, I think, was the warship.
We made our decision. The men were ready. The weapons were ready and the firing team was ready. They headed to a point on the coast opposite the Israeli military ship. They gave us information that the warship was there and within our range of fire. Of course, firing the missile was not an easy thing. It was a complicated matter. The missile was a smart missile and its firing was a complicated issue and it required a number of calculations related to the speed of the wind, the speed of the warship, the sea waves, the temperature, and many other things, all of which had to be considered, such as the distance of the target. The brothers were ...
GB: It was said that you mounted it on a roof of a building. I do not know these things.
HN: How could we mount it on a building? There was a certain mechanism for firing it. We do not want to specify the mechanism - whether it was done from a mobile or from a stationary launch pad - and I prefer to keep this a secret. In all cases, the brothers ...
GB: [interrupting] The men who fired them were experts from among the resistance men. […] They were skilled engineers, good experts.
HN: They were engineers from the resistance. At that time, the Israelis said they were Iranians, Chinese, or Koreans. They were Lebanese men and their forefathers have lived in Lebanon for hundreds of years. By the way, I hope we will have time to talk about some aspects of the victory - we are speaking about a divine victory.
The fact that an experienced Lebanese team, no matter how experienced it is, fires in the field during war and under combat circumstances for the first time, and that it strikes an Israeli warship and hits it right from the first missile, is an extraordinary thing by all military academies and all military experts. Everyone can give his own explanation. Some might say that this was a fluke, and some might say there was some kind of guidance. As Almighty God said in the holy Qur’an: "It is not ye who slew them; it was Allah. When thou threwest [a handful of dust], it was not thy act, but Allah's."
In any case, the brothers contacted us and said that they were ready but it would take time. We, the operations room, were in contact with the missile firing team. I and the brothers agreed to deliver, as much as possible, a statement that would coincide with the event. I was supposed to make a speech, a direct speech by telephone to the Al-Manar Television, and there was coordination with the rest of the media - Al-Manar Television, Al-Nur Radio, and they coordinated with the rest of the media. They said that there would be a message.
However I did not set any time. I said: Be prepared, wait because we have something to say. However, apart from the firing at the warship, I had to make a speech because the security square was being heavily bombed; the secretariat general building was destroyed, the Nasrallah house was destroyed. The Israelis said: We have killed this person. A recorded speech was not appropriate.
We had to broadcast a speech live, a direct speech so that both the enemy and the friend, those who love us and those who hate us, would be certain that this person was still living, that he was not killed. Here also God's intervention played a role and there was a divine victory. My live speech, which was coordinated and synchronized with the firing of the missile at the warship and its destruction, proved that this was really a live speech and not a speech recorded one hour or one or two days before the event.
All media outlets were waiting for a live statement, a live speech, and we were in contact with the brothers until the right time came for the statement that, according to the brothers' estimates, was going to coincide with the firing of the missile, or the missiles. I began to talk while the brothers were about to fire the missile. While I was talking, I was given a signal that the brothers fired the missiles successfully and that the warship was on fire. Therefore, when I became sure of what the brothers told me, I said: Look, it is burning now. I mentioned the news about the firing of the missile and about hitting the warship because the brothers told us that it was hit.
GB: All this was live, on the telephone.
HN: Yes, it was all by telephone.
GB: How were you told that it was really hit and was on fire?
HN: From the place where I was speaking, there were other brothers. They were following contacts. One of them wrote something on a piece of paper and gave it to me, saying that what we had agreed on had happened. The brothers fired the missile and the warship had been hit and it was now on fire.
GB: But the strange thing was that the Israeli side...
HN: Of course I trust what the brothers told me because what I said was based on the fact that the officer at t he operations room, who was in contact with the missile firing site, told me and reassured me about this.
GB: But the Israeli side said the warship was struck 30 minutes or less after the attack on your house. That was understood as a response.
HN: They can understand it this way, but be assured that in the culture of Hezbollah the house of Hezbollah secretary general is not more valuable than any other house that can be struck anywhere in Lebanon. Accordingly, what we did came within the context of war and was not a reply to the bombing of my house. This is so although the Israelis tried to use the bombing of my house for certain moral or political purposes.
GB: Your eminence, I will proceed from this point to say that during that war you adopted the method of delivering speeches. With the exception of that television interview, you always made speeches. Was that part of the military plan or you decided during the war to adopt that method, which turned out to be effective?
HN: That was decided during the war. There are several things you cannot firmly decide before the war. Media and political behavior and even a large part of field behavior are governed by the emerging circumstances and developments that take place. You cannot decide such things in advance.
GB: We noted that you always spoke quietly. Was it deliberate calm by which you sought to hide the state of tension? There was war and you were in the operations room. We do not know where you were. If not so, was that part of a strategy you wanted to adopt at that time to influence others and wage a psychological warfare in a different manner? I hope you will not be very modest because...
HN: Honesty or telling the truth may sometimes be interpreted as exaggeration. No, I was calm, and I am usually calm. When I address the masses, I speak with deliberate enthusiasm because I am addressing masses of people and I do not want people to fall asleep. Therefore, people say we hear you deliver enthusiastic speeches unlike the way you speak in interviews. I am calm by nature. I want to tell you something else.
One of the things noted in the war was the sense of reassurance not only by me but by all the political, military, and organizational leaders of Hezbollah as well as Hezbollah's mujahidin and people. There was reassurance even by the people, whose houses were destroyed and whose children were killed, and the evacuees in tents, parks, and schools. Reassurance was a general attribute - and I do not say that was the case 100 per cent. I, my brothers, and all people who embraced this resistance and wagered on it were largely confident of victory. If you go back to recordings of the first days, you will see this.
Many told me: "In the live speech you delivered the day the warship was hit you said: Just as I always used to promise you victory, now I promise you victory once again. You said victory is coming, coming, coming, God willing. Were you not sacrificing your credibility? If you were waging a psychological warfare, were you not sacrificing your credibility?"
I was not waging a psychological war. I said what I was convinced of. I was reassured and confident that we would triumph. If you ask me now why, I will say this is psychological reassurance. I believe that one of the signs of heavenly victory was instilling reassurance and tranquility in the hearts of believers, mujahidin, and steadfast people. This contrasts with the state of horror, fear, panic, hesitation, and perplexity in enemy ranks. That was the Israeli scene. Not only I was confident, but also all the people who were with me or around me.
Even when we spoke to our brothers in the main operations rooms in the south, we found them all calm, reassured, and confident although the confrontation was very tough. The newspaper Ma'ariv said that during the war the Israeli Army carried out more aerial raids and fired more smart bombs, artillery shells, and cluster bombs than it had done in all Israeli wars put together. In spite of the fire which dropped on us for 33 days, we were reassured. I did not pretend to be calm.
GB: Nevertheless, you adopted that method. Did you only want to direct people or...
HN: I was calm and it was normal for me to look calm. I could have fabricated an enthusiastic or emotional speech.
GB: We are talking about the principle itself. It is the principle of adopting these speeches and televised messages. You adopted this method during the war and it was not programmed. Why? Did you want to only communicate with the people or hit the enemy or what?
HN: I wanted to address people in the first place. After God Almighty, our point of strength is the people, and our point of weakness is the people. How is this? The people are our point of strength because we are their sons and children. They embrace, protect, back, and help us. They surround us from every side. Therefore, the people are our point of strength. As the Lebanese say, they are the sea or water in which our fish swim. Without people we are like fish without water and we die.
They are our point of weakness in the sense that whatever harms or affects those people pains and harms us. We may be lions, cavaliers, and tough in war, but the scenes of massacred children and women and dismembered bodies in destroyed vehicles make us shed tears because they are our kinfolk. That was our point of weakness. Therefore, the Israelis began the war by attacking and killing people because they knew that that was our point of weakness. I am proud that this is our point of weakness.
Someone may ask: How can you reveal your point of weakness to the enemy? I am proud that this is our point of weakness. Therefore, we have to address the people. When the people live the battle and see the scope of the confrontation, developments, challenges, political discussions, and field situation, and when they become reassured about the present and future of the confrontation, they will certainly need someone to address them, share them their feelings, put them in the picture of things, and enhance their determination which was strong.
Therefore, such a communication with them was essential. Also it was important to send messages to enemy and friend. I could not contact or speak to many people during the war. Contact was through channels and mediators. All were supposed to hear me - friend, enemy, people, and even the resistance mujahidin. We speak to leaders on the front but I could not speak on the telephone or radio with everyone. These messages were part of the war.
GB: We also noted that you were addressing the Arab and Islamic nation in your messages. You said then: "You have to realize that this might be a historic opportunity to wage this battle with Israel." Were you planning or wishing to become a great leader in the Arab nation and not only in Hezbollah in Lebanon?
HN: No. I do not think of becoming an Arab leader, or even a Lebanese, or a Shi'i, or a Muslim leader. I do not think this way at all. All I think of is to carry out my duty in this life that is given to me. I strongly believe in judgment day, and that we will stand before God Almighty to be asked about all significant and insignificant actions. My major concern when I stand before God is that I should give answers that win the Almighty's satisfaction.
I can claim that I do not have any earthly ambitions on the level of leadership, position, administration, authority, or any such thing. Even when I address the Arab world I try to convey a message about the blood of martyrs, tears of orphans, and the sacrifices of the Lebanese people. I convey them in the interest of the battle, the goal, and the sacred cause for which we all sacrifice.
GB: What was the story of the message you addressed to the resistance men? You said at the beginning that there was direct contact with them, but you then preferred to address them via television in that manner. We have learned that you were distressed by that. What happened? What was the story of that message to them specifically?
HN: The brothers sent a message through the news media. Because it was transmitted through the news media, I was obliged morally to reply to it. They chose to convey the message to me through the news media.
HN: I think they wanted the Lebanese people, the enemy, the Arab and Islamic world, and the whole world to hear their word and know their determination and strong will to confront the enemy. The message was a renewal of pledge and allegiance to the resistance, the leadership of the resistance, the line of resistance, and aims of resistance. By the way, I do not know if the brother mujahidin meant that but they perhaps did that on the basis of their nature, instinct, and sincerity.
That, however, was one of the most feasible methods used in psychological warfare in the world to strengthen friends and terrify the enemy. Therefore, there had to be an answer. In the same way as their message was from the heart, my answer was from the heart. Therefore, you may remember that in that message I first spoke about the political and field situation but when I reached this part I was very excited. I hardly controlled myself because I was addressing them from the heart, too.
GB: Did you write your messages or just the headlines?
HN: Sometimes I wrote headlines as I did in the live speech I delivered on the warship day. Sometimes I expanded some headlines, but I wrote the text of some sensitive political portions. I used to modify the text while reading it. There was no one specific form.
GB: Were there only headlines in your first speech, which was the most important and serious one?
HN: Yes, there were only headlines.
GB: Was it not part of the adventure?
HN: No, there was no problem.
GB: We could not ask you last year, but much was said about your whereabouts. Were you at the Iranian Embassy or in Baalbek or Syria?
HN: Let this remain a secret. I was not in Syria, the Iranian Embassy, or many other places. By saying I was not here and there I may narrow down the locations. They mentioned the Iranian Embassy and Syria but I was among my brothers and people on my land. I was where I should have been.
GB: Since Syria is mentioned here, I would like to say in this first part that there is a basic issue for which we want a frank reply if you please. At that time there was talk about a possible Syrian involvement in the war. When the Israeli ground offensive began many said the war might expand regionally and Syria might join it.
We received information which I can sum up in two main points. One said Syria wanted to enter the war but you in Hezbollah's leadership advised against this at that time. Another said you in Hezbollah wanted the war to expand in order to better fortify yourselves but the Syrian leadership was apparently not ready for that. Which saying is correct?
HN: First, I would like to strongly assert that Hezbollah's leadership did not have any desire to expand the war to become a regional one for many reasons, including political, economic, military, and security reasons. I think these calculations were correct. We did not want that, and we did not do anything to lead to that. We did not ask Syria or any other friend - and some talked about Iran - to join us in the war. That was absolutely not our intention or desire. We saw no interest in that.
GB: Why was there no interest in it?
HN: Because we were confident that we would triumph in that war and that we had the ability to fight. We believed that expanding the war might lead to large regional and international developments. We would then not know where the entire region would be heading. We saw a clear horizon before us during the war in Lebanon.
We knew that eventually losses would be inflicted on Lebanon but we could reach a point at which the war would end and we would triumph and prevent the enemy from achieving its aims. Keeping the war within the Lebanese domain meant that it remained under control. A regional expansion of the war could have definitely led to uncontrollable limits and unknown results. That was our viewpoint and conviction.
As to whether the Syrian leadership was planning or not, I think the Syrian leadership would not discuss a decision on such a level with us, especially since we were in a state of war and tough confrontation. However, what I know for sure is that Syria informed the enemy's government via mediators that in the case of any ground advance into Al-Urqub area on the way to the Hasbayya and Rashayya areas that are adjacent to the eastern mountains - the guarded security boundary for Damascus - Syria will not stand idly by and will engage in the battle.
Its reason would, of course, be defending itself. It has the natural right to defend its land, capital, and cities. What I knew was that the threat assumed the entry of Syrian forces into the eastern range of mountains even inside the Lebanese territories to confront the Israeli forces that would enter from that angle. What I also know is that the Israelis took this message very seriously. Hence, you notice that no ground advances whatsoever took place towards that axis. Not a single Israeli soldier advanced on that axis. All ground advances took place on the other axes where we were stationed.
GB: Is it definite then that Syria was threatening to enter the war at that time?
HN: Yes if the Israeli forces entered from that axis in the direction of the Hasbayya and Rashayya areas. Their entry would mean Damascus was under their fire. Syria would then have the right to act on the basis that that was a threat which should be met with a counter threat. This is at least the information I had.
GB: What was it that worried you most militarily during the war?
HN: To conclude talk about the military portion in preparation for the second part, I can say that we had good military options during the war. To sum up what happened at sea, I can say that by firing two missiles at the warship we managed to knock the Israeli naval force out of the equation. We did do although the enemy was strong. I want the Arabs to know this fact. It got out of the equation completely. When the warship tried to approach the shore of Tyre, we fired at it and I am sure we hit it.
The Israelis can deny this but all saw how a number of Israeli warships went to that firing point. Why was that naval mobilization? An Israeli gunboat was later attacked off the shore of Tyre as we saw on television screens. This means we managed to disrupt the Israeli naval force. Second, we shot down a number of helicopters.
Therefore, the Israeli helicopters no longer dared to fly in our skies at daylight but not at night as we had a problem with night vision. Helicopters continued to work at nigh t but we neutralized them at daytime. Knocking the naval force out of the battle and neutralizing the activity of helicopters during the day forced the Israeli enemy to depend on its Air Force in an intensive and unprecedented manner because we had no power to confront their Air Force. Therefore, a large number of raids were carried out. Ma'ariv spoke of 12,000 sorties and most of these sorties were combat ones. The Israeli enemy carried out combat reconnaissance and not reconnaissance that was later followed by bombing.
Our ability to hit all targets in northern Palestine, including Haifa and what is beyond it, and the continuation of this ability to the last day of the war, was an extremely large element of strength for us. All the Israeli Air Force, on which they wagered, failed to prevent the firing of these missiles up to the last day. We were ready to the end to strike Tel Aviv if Beirut was bombed. This possibility continued to exist to the last moment.
GB: You were then serious when you threatened to hit Tel Aviv.
HN: Definitely. As for the ground battle...
GB: And what is beyond Tel Aviv?
HN: The one who reaches Tel Aviv will have accomplished the job.
GB: I am asking if Hezbollah has the ability to hit deep inside Israel.
HN: Even in July and August 2006, there was no place in occupied Palestine that the resistance missiles could not reach, whether in Tel Aviv or elsewhere. We definitely could have reached any corner or place in occupied Palestine, and now we can definitely reach them. With regard to the ground battle, there came the surprise of anti-armor missiles and large destruction of tanks. That was really what changed the balances of war during the last few days.
They finally wagered on ground operations but they realized that any such operation would fail and heavy losses would be inflicted on their tanks, officers, and soldiers. Therefore, I can militarily affirm that there were sacrifices and martyrs in the confrontation. Fighters were combating fire from above and around, but their morale, administration, and field presence were excellent. I will conclude by saying the pressure put on us was only that of the people.
It was normal to be moved by the martyrdom of our brothers and beloved ones in the resistance, but that was not an element of pressure because that was one of the consequences of war. Also that was the choice made by the youths. Massacres, however, were committed and civilians were killed and houses destroyed.
We were moved even by the destruction of houses because it would not be easy to rebuild them. We, however, were mostly moved by the people. That is why I described them as the most honorable, generous, and chaste people. I said this in my message to the mujahidin which was highlighted in the media. I also addressed this to people in the same message and said things from the bottom of my heart because the houses of these people were destroyed and their men, women, and children were killed. People were forced out of entire areas.
Nevertheless, they took an honorable and great stand in support of the resistance. I know that some news media toured the evacuees' centers, schools, and parks and that delegations from foreign embassies toured these places to get even a single word from an evacuee condemning the resistance, the mujahidin, or Hezbollah but they heard only strong, clear, and firm words from the displaced people whose houses were destroyed and their dear ones were killed.
The emotion and love we have for the people are rarely paralleled. Therefore, believe me that when a woman, girl, son, or child is killed, I feel that my mother or child is martyred. This is the only point which pained us. As for the military and political pressures, which we can discuss later, we had the ability and readiness to hold out in their face, praise be to God.
GB: We will continue to discuss this issue in the second part, but I would like to make sure of one thing. Do I accurately understand from you that Hezbollah now, and not only during the July war, has the missile power that can reach any corner in Israel or Palestine?
HN: I told you a short while ago.
GB: I just want to make sure of this now.
HN: Yes, yes. In July 2006 and in July 2007...
GB: We know this now.
HN: In July 2006 and in July 2007 great. Yes, we have the ability to reach any target or place in occupied Palestine.
GB: Dear viewers, thank you for watching. We will meet with you in the second part, God willing. Goodbye until then.