BEIRUT - Syria will supply "game-changing" weapons to Hezbollah, the chief of the Lebanese militant group said Thursday, less than a week after Israeli air strikes on Damascus targeted alleged shipments of advanced Iranian missiles bound for Hezbollah.
Israel has signaled it will respond with air strikes to any weapons shipments, meaning it could quickly get drawn into Syria's civil war if the Hezbollah chief's declaration is more than an empty threat.
Tension has been rising in the region since Israel struck targets inside Syria on Friday and Sunday. Hezbollah and Israel fought several battles in the last three decades, including a 34-day war in 2006 that left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead.
Israel has largely tried to stay out of Syria's 26-month-old conflict. It never acknowledged the air strikes, but Israeli officials have signaled Israel's air force would strike against any shipments of strategic missiles that might be bound for Hezbollah.
Israeli officials say the Lebanese militant group has tens of thousands of rockets, though most are unguided. The shipments targeted last week included precision-guided missiles, the officials said.
Hezbollah's chief, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has said his group has missiles that can strike anywhere in Israel, including as far south as the Red Sea resort of Eilat.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah and Iran have become increasingly involved in Syria's civil war, supplying troops and military advisers to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight armed rebels trying to oust him.
Nasrallah spoke Thursday to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hezbollah's radio station, Al-Nour, in a speech televised in Beirut. Nasrallah has rarely appeared in public since the 2006 war, for fear of being targeted by Israel.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah could expect strategic weapons from Syria in the future.
"Syria will give the resistance special weapons it never had before," Nasrallah said. "We mean game-changing."
Nasrallah said the weapons shipments were Syria's response to the Israeli air strikes. "This is the Syrian strategic reaction," Nasrallah said. "This is more important than firing a rocket or carrying out an air strike" against Israel.
The military alliance between Syria and Hezbollah will continue, the Hezbollah chief said.
"We in the Lebanese resistance declare that we stand by the Syrian popular resistance and give our material and moral support, and cooperate and coordinate in order to liberate the Syrian Golan," he said.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed the strategic plateau.