BEIRUT — Hezbollah conducted a military demonstration on Sunday near the locality of Mlita, South Lebanon, ahead of Resistance and Liberation Day celebrated on May 25. Local, regional and international media were invited to attend the demonstration.
According to L’Orient Today's correspondent, the exercises in celebration of the 23rd anniversary of the liberation of South Lebanon from Israeli occupation lasted two hours, with several hundred people in attendance. The party showed off its weapons, artillery mortars and drones, and its fighters paraded on all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles. Simulated hand-to-hand combat was also on display. According to the website of Al-Manar, the party's media outlet, some of the exercises were conducted "with live ammunition."
The chairman of Hezbollah's executive council, Hashem Safieddine, spoke to the journalists present. "We say to Benjamin Netanyahu [the Israeli prime minister] and his incapable team that we have observed their capabilities, and we know that they will not be able to change the situation," he said, in remarks reported by Al-Manar.
Addressing the fighters, he said that their weapons "will remain in your hands until the victory promised by Hassan Nasrallah [secretary-general of Hezbollah] is achieved." Addressing all Lebanese, Safieddine called on them to "be reassured, because the resistance is there to protect Lebanon and its sovereignty."
Kataeb MP Samy Gemayel described the exercises in a tweet Sunday as “a message of defiance to the Lebanese first, and the Arab summit second, and an image of the homeland that awaits us if its hegemony is established over the country.”
#مناورات_حزب_الله في الجنوب رسالة تحد للبنانيين اولاً والقمة العربية ثانياً وصورة للوطن الذي ينتظرنا اذا ما كرّست هيمنته على البلد.— Samy Gemayel (@samygemayel) May 21, 2023
للمجتمع العربي والدولي نقول: هل تقبلون ازدواجية سلاح ومناورات عسكرية وخطف قرار الدولة في بلادكم؟
لن نخضع لسطوة السلاح، ولا لتوظيف ارضنا وشبابنا في…
“To the Arab and international community, we say: Do you accept arms outside the state, military maneuvers, and hijacking of the state's decision in your country? We will not submit to the power of arms, nor to employing our land and our youth in foreign service,” Gemayel concluded.
Ashraf Rifi, a Tripoli MP, said in a statement that “it is not a resistance that organizes military parades, but a tool that exercises hegemony and hypocrisy.”
“You will not intimidate anyone with these displays, and we will confront you, and we will not allow you to extend the reign of hell for six years. Be wise, 'Hezbollah,' because the era of bullying has ended. And the majority of the Lebanese will not remain silent about a militia driven by Iran,” Rifi's statement concluded.
The Israeli army withdrew from South Lebanon on May 24, 2000, but Lebanon believes that it still has to withdraw from the Shebaa farms, located on the western slopes of Mount Hermon, occupied by Israel during the Arab-Israeli war of June 1967, as well as from the heights of Kfar Shuba and the northern part of the village of Ghajar in order for the liberation to be complete.
Reporting contributed by Caroline Hayek