JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned Lebanon that it will be held accountable for any aggressive act by Hezbollah.
Speaking to Gush Katif evacuees in the Lakhish region in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu issued the warning during an address marking the fourth anniversary of the government's pullout from the Gaza.
"If Hezbollah entered the government as an official body, let it be clear that the Lebanese government will be held accountable for any attack on Israel coming from its territory," the prime minister said.
"The government of Lebanon cannot just say 'that's Hezbollah' and hide behind them," Netanyahu said. "The government of Lebanon is in power and responsible," he said.
The prime minister's remarks followed bellicose statements by senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safi a-Din, who threatened that the "[Second Lebanon] war of 2006 will seem like a joke" compared to the terror group's response to an Israeli attack.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Israel Radio that Israel will respond harshly to any provocation against Israelis abroad, citing a recent thwarted assassination attempt on Israel's ambassador to Cairo.
"If one hair on the head of an Israeli representative or tourist is harmed, we will hold Hezbollah responsible and it will bear the most dire consequences," Ayalon said.
"We know it's not just Egypt....We know that Hezbollah has tried and is trying to collect intelligence and carry out some actions," he said.
"It has had its failures, but it keeps trying. So it's important to put things on the table and send this [as a] warning to Lebanon, which in the end is responsible for Hezbollah and will also be responsible for any harm it [Lebanon] may suffer if Israelis are targeted," he said.
Hezbollah has threatened to avenge the February 2008 assassination of senior commander Imad Mughniyeh, killed by a car bomb in an upscale Damascus neighborhood.
Hezbollah blamed Israel for his death, promising to target Jews both inside Israel and abroad.
Mughniyeh's widow said Syria was responsible for her husband's death.
Sources: Haaretz, Ynet news