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Hezbollah: Syria to supply weapons to militia

Published: Thursday, May 9 2013 11:44 a.m. MDT

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks via video during a conference, held in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday May, 9, 2013. Nasrallah said Syria will supply `game-changing' weapons to the Lebanese militant group.  (Hussein Malla, Associated Press) Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks via video during a conference, held in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday May, 9, 2013. Nasrallah said Syria will supply `game-changing' weapons to the Lebanese militant group. (Hussein Malla, Associated Press)

BEIRUT — 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.

In this image taken from video obtained from the Ugarit News, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a man reads a statement as four abducted Filipino UN peacekeepers are seen in Daraa, Syria, on Thursday, May 9, 2013. Tensions remained high on the Israeli-Syrian border on Thursday morning, two days after a Syrian rebel group abducted four UN peacekeepers. The abduction was the second such incident in the area in two months. The UN said the Filipino peacekeepers were detained on Tuesday while on patrol on the Golan Heights, a volatile Israeli-occupied area that separates Syria and Israel.  (Ugarit News via AP video, Associated Press) In this image taken from video obtained from the Ugarit News, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a man reads a statement as four abducted Filipino UN peacekeepers are seen in Daraa, Syria, on Thursday, May 9, 2013. Tensions remained high on the Israeli-Syrian border on Thursday morning, two days after a Syrian rebel group abducted four UN peacekeepers. The abduction was the second such incident in the area in two months. The UN said the Filipino peacekeepers were detained on Tuesday while on patrol on the Golan Heights, a volatile Israeli-occupied area that separates Syria and Israel. (Ugarit News via AP video, Associated Press)

"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.

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