BEIRUT (AP) — Syria will supply "game-changing" weapons to Hezbollah, the chief of the Lebanese militia said defiantly on Thursday, just days after Israeli airstrikes on Damascus targeted shipments of advanced Iranian weapons possibly bound for the group.
"Syria will give the resistance special weapons it never had before," Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech. "We mean game-changing."
Nasrallah said the shipments of new types of weapons would serve as the Syrian reaction to Israel's airstrikes. Syria has long been a conduit for Iranian weapons bound for Hezbollah.
Israeli officials said the Lebanese militia has tens of thousands of rockets, but that most of them are unguided. Israeli officials said the shipments targeted twice last week included precision-guided missiles.
After the Israeli attacks, there had been speculation about whether Syria would retaliate, at the risk of drawing Israel into Syria's civil war.
"This is the Syrian strategic reaction," said Nasrallah of future weapons shipments.
"This is more important than firing a rocket or carrying out an airstrike in occupied Palestine," he said. Hezbollah refers to Israel as part of "occupied Palestine."
Israel never formally acknowledged the airstrikes, but Israeli officials have said Israel would keep striking any shipments of advanced weapons meant for Hezbollah. If Syria were to attempt shipments of such weapons to Hezbollah, Israeli strikes appear likely and could lead to a major escalation in the 26-month-old Syria conflict.
Hezbollah and Iran have become increasingly involved in Syria's civil war, sending troops and military advisers to help Syrian President Bashar Assad fight armed rebels trying to oust him.