JERUSALEM Israel would use "disproportionate" force to destroy Lebanese villages from which Hezbollah guerrillas fired rockets at its cities in any future war, an Israeli general said in remarks published on Friday.
"What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on," said Gadi Eisenkot, head of the army's northern division.
Dahiya was a Hezbollah stronghold that Israel flattened in sustained air raids during a 34-day war with the Shiite group two years ago.
"We will apply disproportionate force on it (village) and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases," Eisenkot told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.
"This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved," Eisenkot added.
Some 1,200 Lebanese and 159 Israelis were killed during the war, which was sparked by a Hezbollah cross-border attack against an Israeli army patrol.
The army's failure to halt daily barrages of rockets against Israeli cities during the war prompted a wave of criticism of military commanders as well as calls on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign over his handling of the conflict.
Israel accused Hezbollah of firing rockets from civilian homes in southern Lebanon during the war, a claim echoed by human rights groups who also accused Israel of using excessive force that claimed the lives of innocent civilians.
Eisenkot said Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, had significantly improved its rocket fire capability since the end of the war two years ago.
He rejected accusations that Israel was violating a U.N.-brokered cease-fire by sending aircraft on reconnaissance flights over Lebanon, saying the aerial missions were necessary given that Iran and Syria continue to arm Hezbollah in breach of the U.N. truce.
"Hezbollah is building capabilities against us that contravene the agreement signed by the Lebanese government at the end of the war," said Eisenkot. "Therefore there is legitimacy to continue the flights over southern Lebanon and over Lebanon in general."
(Writing by Joseph Nasr, Editing by Douglas Hamilton)