Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak pledged "very tough" Israeli retaliation to any attack by Hizbullah, vowing to target areas "deep in Lebanon" Lebanese daily An-Nahar reported on Sunday. Barak warned against an "intimate relation" between Hizbullah and Syria saying it could lead into distorting the balance of power in Lebanon, "which would lead Israel to retaliate."
Meanwhile, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Thursday that Israel will hold Lebanon responsible for any attacks against Israel, in particular for any Hizbullah efforts to avenge the murder of its top military commander Imad Mughniyeh.
"This decision on Wednesday by the security Cabinet represents a change in Israeli policy, after always firmly separating Hizbullah and the Lebanese government," it reported.
According to defense establishment recommendations adopted by the security cabinet, Israel will treat the Lebanese unity government, which is headed by Fouad Siniora and includes Hizbullah, "as responsible for any event that takes place in its sovereign territory or events for which Lebanese nationals are responsible."
A source told Haaretz that if Hizbullah attacks Israel from inside Lebanese territory, shoots at Israel Air Force aircraft or carries out a terror attack abroad as revenge for the Mughniyeh assassination, which it attributes to Israel, then Israel will hold Lebanon responsible and respond appropriately.
"In the coming weeks, Israel plans to start transmitting this message to the United Nations, United States, Russia and European nations, and primarily to Syria and Hizbullah itself," Haaretz said.
The Haaretz report claimed that during the 2006 war on Lebanon, Israel avoided damaging Lebanese civilian infrastructure such as power stations, ports or government institutions, despite the recommendation of then-chief of staff Dan Halutz. Israel refrained from such attacks because of pressure from Washington, the report claimed.
"The US claimed that bombing Lebanese infrastructure would topple the moderate Siniora government," it added.
During the 34-day war, Israeli air strikes heavily targeted Lebanese infrastructure as well as civilian areas, including a power station, roads, bridges, communication systems, factories, airports, ports and Lebanese Army military bases.
According to Haaretz, defense officials noted in the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that "two developments" supported a change in policy.
"The first is the fact Hizbullah is now a partner in a Lebanese unity government and holds veto rights," the daily said.
"The second is that the policy statement of the new Lebanese government, approved by President Michel Sleiman, allows Hizbullah to continue its military activity against Israel," it added.
Haaretz reported that the Israeli defense establishment "believes these new conditions improve Israel's deterrent power as Hizbullah understands the severe ramifications of the new situation should there be any action against Israel in Lebanon or overseas."
Hizbullah's number two Sheikh Naim Qassem said last week Lebanese emigrants who support Hizbullah in its struggle against Israel, "should respect the laws and policies of their host countries and know that the fight against Israel should take place in Lebanon and not anywhere else."