Israeli army chief threatens Lebanon with devastating war amid gas dispute
Israeli army Chief Aviv Kochavi Sunday threatened Lebanon with "unprecedented bombing" as tensions between the enemy states simmer over a maritime gas dispute.
"My message to the Lebanese is that we will allow them to leave their homes immediately, we will warn them to leave," said Kochavi, noting he expected any future war to be "very large."
He claimed that the Israeli army had pinned thousands of targets in Lebanon that will be hit in any potential war between the two countries.
Israel and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group last fought a 34-day war in the summer of 2006 which saw Israel destroy airports, roads and bridges, fuel storages, and much of Beirut’s southern suburbs and southern Lebanon.
Over 1,000 fighters and civilians were killed in Lebanon, while around 120 died in Israel.
"The main message to them [Lebanese] is that we advise them to leave before we fire the first shot in places of tension…the bombing will be unprecedented," warned Kochavi.
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He stated that the Israeli army was dealing with six fronts in "six dimensions" in the face of large and diverse threats, outlining Iran’s nuclear programme to be the biggest threat.
Israel has previously stated that it will not be bound by any agreement between Iran and world powers and will stop Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb - a claim denied by the Islamic Republic.
"Every target associated with missiles and rockets will be targeted in the next war. A house which has shells in it or next to it, a fighter dealing with rockets, a command centre, a power station… All of this will be hit during the war," he continued.
Kochavi's warning came hours before US energy envoy, Amos Hochstein, is scheduled to visit Lebanon on Monday to continue mediating talks to end the maritime dispute.
Lebanon has warned Israel against any "aggressive action" in disputed waters where both states hope to develop offshore energy, after a vessel operated by London-based Energean arrived off the coast to produce gas for Israel.
Israel claims the vessel is stationed outside of disputed territory.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said last week that his armed movement was "not afraid of war" with Israel, and that Hezbollah could stop Israel from extracting gas from a maritime field that lies in disputed waters.