Hizbullah: Israel attack on Iran could ignite Middle East

Beirut–Violence could spread across the Middle East with Israel paying a "heavy price" if it launched military action against Iran, the deputy leader of Hizbullah said on Thursday.

Israel sees Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to its existence and has not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to curb the Islamic Republic’s atomic work.

The United States and other western powers suspect Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon and are currently discussing the imposition of new economic sanctions against Tehran.

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.

"Israel or the United States cannot just bomb Iran and (expect) things to continue normally," Sheikh Naim Kassem told Reuters. "Any attack on Iran could ignite the whole region and the assailant will pay a heavy price whether its Israel or the United States."

He said any countries which allowed an attack on Iran to be launched from U.S. bases on their territory would also face reprisals.

Kassem refused to discuss details of Hizbullah’s role in responding to any attack on Iran.

Israeli officials say Hizbullah, and to a lesser degree the Palestinian group Hamas, would launch cross-border rocket salvoes on Iran’s behalf should it come under attack and this scenario was featured in an Israeli-U.S. air defence exercise last year.

Hizbullah, a Shi’ite Lebanese group, was set up with the help of Iranian Revolutionary Guards to fight Israeli forces that invaded Lebanon in 1982 and still enjoys strong support from Tehran as well as Syria.

The group fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006 that cost 1200 lives in Lebanon and 159 in Israel. Despite U.N. resolutions and a U.N. peacekeeping force, Hizbullah has since rearmed.

Earlier this month, the U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon expressed concern that a wave of bellicose rhetoric between Israel and Lebanon has fueled fears the two hostile neighbors could be headed for another conflict.

Lebanese and Syrian officials have accused Israel of pushing for a new war in the Middle East but Kassem said he did not expect a war soon.

"Based on our expectations … there are no signs for a war soon, but Israel is planning for one and whether this day is far or near we have to be ready and prepared and that is what we are now."

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