(AP) - A senior Hezbollah official said Tuesday the guerrillas did not expect Israel to react with an all-out offensive after the capture of two soldiers, the first acknowledgment by the group that it had miscalculated the consequences of the raid two weeks ago.
Mahmoud Komati, deputy chief of the Hezbollah's political arm, also told The Associated Press in an interview that the Shiite militant group will not lay down arms, reports Trend.
In separate remarks early Wednesday, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah defiantly vowed his fighters would begin firing rockets deeper into Israel, beyond the northern port of Haifa.
"The truth is let me say this clearly we didn't even expect (this) response ... that (Israel) would exploit this operation for this big war against us," said Komati.
He said Hezbollah had expected "the usual, limited response" from Israel after the two soldiers were seized by guerrillas on Israel's side of the border on July 12.
In the past, he said, Israeli responses to Hezbollah actions included sending commandos into Lebanon, seizing Hezbollah officials and briefly targeting specific strongholds in southern Lebanon.
Komati said his group had anticipated negotiations to swap the Israeli soldiers for three Lebanese held in Israeli jails, with Germany acting as a mediator as it has in past prisoner exchanges.
In a speech broadcast on Hezbollah's al-Manar television, Nasrallah urged his people to be patient, apparently counting on growing international anger at the Israeli offensive in which hundreds of Lebanese have died.
"Our steadfastness will change the regional and international reality around us. The enemy won't have a lot of time, no matter what cover the American administration is providing it," Nasrallah said.
He said the group would enter a new stage in the fighting, vowing "our attacks will not remain limited to Haifa." In the last two weeks, Hezbollah has rained hundreds of rockets on northern Israel, reaching targets farther south than in any previous attacks. The group has repeatedly hit the city of Haifa, the third largest in Israel.
Komati said Hezbollah captured the Israeli soldiers from a military area, but charged that Israelis had taken Hezbollah leaders from their homes at night.
"The response is unjustified," Komati said. He claimed the Israeli offensive was planned in advance, and Israel was only "waiting for the right time" to carry it out, a claim repeated by Nasrallah.
Asked about reports that Hezbollah has been firing Iranian-made missiles on Israel, Komati said: "We don't deny nor confirm. We believe where the weapons come from is irrelevant."
Hezbollah leaders previously have denied that Iran was supplying them with weapons.
Komati said Hezbollah has weapons made in various countries, including the United States, France, China and Russia.
"Some of our fighters carry M16s. So you think we buy them from America?" he asked.
Hezbollah is demanding an immediate end to Israeli attacks before agreeing to negotiate, Komati said, rejecting a plan proposed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit to Beirut on Monday.
The plan calls for the deployment of international and Lebanese troops in southern Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah attacks on Israel before a cease-fire.
"No one can talk about politics while the fire rages, and killings occur," Komati said.
He was adamant about Hezbollah's refusal to disarm because of what he said was Israeli occupation of Lebanese land, the "threat of Israeli aggression" and the Lebanese held in Israeli jails.