Israel warns Hizbollah over Iran
Any Hizbollah retaliation to an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would prompt Israel to launch a war in Lebanon so ferocious that it would take a decade to rebuild the villages it destroys, a senior Israeli military officer has warned.
Despite the inevitable international outcry, Israel would be left with no choice but to lay waste to swathes of southern Lebanon because Hizbollah has entrenched itself so deeply within the civilian population, he said.
The unusually stark warning comes after months of heightened speculation that the Israeli government is considering unilateral military action against Iran's nuclear installations despite opposition from the United States.
Although the prospect of an attack in the next few months is unlikely until after Israelis vote in a September general election, Ehud Barak, the country's defence minister, recently insisted that military strikes had not been ruled out.
Israel has always been aware of the heavy price it could incur from such an attack, with Iran able to retaliate through Hizbollah and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza. Both Islamist movements have long been funded and armed by Tehran and have built up vast stockpiles of rockets capable of reaching deep into Jewish territory.
But Israel has also sensed an unexpected opportunity as a result of the Arab Spring, which has significantly diminished Tehran's regional clout.
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