UK & World News

  • 10 May 2013, 2:48

Hizbollah Warns Syria Supplying 'New Weapons'

Hizbollah says it will gain an arsenal of "sophisticated" weapons from Syria following Israeli strikes on the capital Damascus.

The claim was made by the group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, as Britain warned it would push the EU to designate Hizbollah's military wing as a terrorist organisation.

It follows a series of raids and air strikes around Damascus which Israeli sources, quoted by Reuters, said were designed to take out "game-changing" Iranian missiles destined for use by Hizbollah.

Lebanon's Shi'ite group fought a war with Israel in 2006 and is a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al Assad in his struggle against a two-year revolt.

"If the aim of your attack was to prevent the strengthening of the resistance's capabilities, then Syria will give the resistance sophisticated weapons the like of which it hasn't seen before," Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

"The resistance is prepared to accept any sophisticated weaponry, even if it was to break the equilibrium (in the region).

"We are worthy of having such weapons and we would use them to defend our people, our country and our holy sites."

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment on Mr Nasrallah's speech.

Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the country's foreign ministry, said: "We don't respond to words. We respond to action."

Meanwhile, a Foreign Office minister told the House of Commons that Hizbollah should be redesignated after it attacked a bus at an airport in Bulgaria last year, killing five Israeli tourists as well as the driver.

Alistair Burt called for Europe to deliver a "robust response" and told MPs the EU would meet in the next month to discuss the UK's proposals.

He said the dilemma facing governments was that Hizbollah's political wing - rather than its military arm - played a "pragmatic" role in Lebanon, ensuring the country's southern border with Israel remained relatively quiet.

In the aftermath of the Israeli strikes, Syrian state media quoted unnamed sources as saying Damascus had given the go-ahead to launch operations against Israel from the Golan - a key battleground between President Assad's forces and rebel fighters.

There have been no clear signs of any increased military activity in the area.

In other developments, Israeli security forces told the Associated Press they have asked Russia to cancel the imminent sale of an advanced air defence system.

Meanwhile, President Assad's regime said it welcomed efforts by the United States and Russia to bring all sides in the Syrian civil war together for talks.

Fighting was reported in Aleppo and Idlib in northern Syria, as government forces attacked rebel positions, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.