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Hezbollah Says It Will Retaliate Against Israel But War Unlikely

Ali Akbar Velayati (R), Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's top advisor on international affairs, talks with Lebanon's Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem. File photo

Lebanese Hezbollah reiterated on Tuesday it will retaliate against Israel after drones crashed in southern suburbs of Beirut; but a new war remains unlikely, according to its deputy leader.

"I rule out that the atmosphere is one of war, it is one of a response to an attack," Sheikh Naim Qassem told Russia's RT Arabic channel on Tuesday night. "Everything will be decided at its time."

Israel has not claimed responsibility for two drones, which crashed near Hezbollah building on Sunday, with one exploding near its media center.

In response to questions about the origin or target of the drones, Qassem did not give details.

He said Hezbollah deemed it an attack that it must respond to, so that Israel does not upset the status quo and set its own terms.

"We want the strike to be a surprise...and so there is no interest in diving into the details," he added. "The coming days will reveal this."

Reuters quotes two sources close to Hezbollah as saying the Iran-backed Shiite group is preparing a “calculated strike” but seeks to avoid a larger war.

Israel and Hezbollah have fought numerous small and large-scale battles in the past. A full-scale war raged for weeks on the Israeli-Lebanese border in 2006, with intense Israeli bombardment of Hezbollah targets across Lebanon. But since then there have been no direct land confrontation between the two. Israel is reported to have bombed numerous consignments of Iranian arms in Syria, destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israel has intensified its threats against Iran and its proxies in recent days, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying Iran "will not be immune" anywhere.

One day before the drones incident Israel said it had attacked Iranian targets In Syria.

Reporting by Reuters