Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded to Hezbollah movement leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's recent claims that Israel would be on the "verge of vanishing" in the event of a new war with the militant group.
Calling Nasrallah's comments "boastful words," Netanyahu warned that if Hezbollah "dared to do something foolish and attack Israel, we would impose a crushing military blow on it and on Lebanon." Netanyahu made the comments at a cabinet meeting on Sunday, the Jerusalem Post has reported.
Saying he would not go into detail to "elaborate on our plans," Netanyahu noted that "suffice it to say that for years Nasrallah dug terror tunnels, which we destroyed within days."
The Israeli prime minister's warning came amid recent belligerent remarks by Nasrallah, who warned that Israel would be "wiped out" if it found itself drawn into a war between the US and Iran.
"Iran is able to bombard Israel with ferocity and force," Nasrallah said, speaking to Lebanon's Al-Manar television channel. "When the Americans understand that this war could wipe out Israel, they will reconsider," he added.
Last week, Netanyahu responded to an Iranian lawmaker's warning that "Israel's lifespan" would be cut short if Tel Aviv's US allies attacked Iran, saying Israeli warplanes, including its new F-35s stealth fighters, could "reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran."
The Iranian military blasted Netanyahu over the remarks, saying Iran reserves a legitimate right to self defence on the basis of the UN Charter, "Islamic teachings" and its own defence strategies.
Israel and Hezbollah last clashed in Lebanon in 2006, with Israeli forces invading the Mediterranean country after Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid. The conflict, which lasted 34 days, claimed the lives of over 1,300 people, and caused billions of dollars in damage to Lebanon's infrastructure, was halted after a UN-brokered ceasefire.
Bilateral relations between Israel and Hezbollah's Iranian allies have been poor for decades, with the two powers cutting off formal diplomatic ties after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Israel intensely lobbied US President Donald Trump to scrap the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, with Prime Minister Netanyahu making a media presentation on Iran's alleged attempts to hide its nuclear activities from the world just days before Trump announced that the US would be scrapping its obligations under the treaty and imposing sanctions against Tehran.
Leaders and military officials from the two countries have repeatedly threatened one another, with Israel also accusing Iran of running anti-Israeli proxy campaigns in neighbouring countries, including Lebanon and Syria. Iran has denied the claims, and said its Syria aid was aimed at eliminating terrorists in the war-torn country.