Hezbollah’s chief has warned of a further escalation on Israel’s border with Lebanon and said Hamas’s war with the Jewish state is ‘now on more than one front’.
The powerful group’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah praised the Alaqsa Flood – the name used by Hamas for its vicious assault last month – and said the ‘glorious jihadi operation’ had led to an ‘earthquake‘ in the Jewish state, revealed the weakness of Israel and its army, and established a new historical phase in the battle.
Any escalation, he said, depends on the events in Gaza and Israel’s actions.
‘For a whole month, Israel could not offer a single military achievement,’ Nasrallah said, adding that Israel can only get back hostages – 240 of of which were taken back into Gaza by Hamas terrorists – through negotiation.
It was the leader’s first speech since the October 7 massacre, and raised fears his terror group is set to enter the conflict and spark a wider war in the Middle East.
The 63-year-old is addressed thousands in Beirut from an unknown location. Celebratory gunshots rang out as people waving Hezbollah’s yellow flag packed into a square in the city’s suburbs to watch the televised speech.
In his wide ranging address, he called the war in Gaza ‘decisive’ and said there were two goals: to stop aggression against Gaza and to ensure victory for Hamas.
Hezbollah supporters gather to attend a ceremony to honour fighters killed in the recent escalation with Israel, on the day of Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s address, in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Lebanon November 3
Nasrallah also claimed that his terror group had ‘entered the battled on October 8’ – the day after Hamas’s attack, which killed more than 1,400 people in Israel.
‘Some claim we are about to engage in the war. I am telling you, we have been engaged in this war and battle since October. The Islamic resistance and Lebanon started operations the very next day,’ he said.
Earlier in his speech, he thanked the ‘Iraqi, Yemeni hands that joined this battle’ and celebrated pro-Palestinian protests that have been seen around the world.
‘We must salute all those who took to the street in support and solidarity with the Palestinians, from all over the world,’ he said.
Nasrallah also thanked ‘martyrs’ killed along the border that Lebanon shares with Israel which has seen clashes in recent weeks.
‘Those fallen martyrs are alive in God’s paradise,’ he said.
Nasrallah insisted the decision to launch the attack was ‘100 percent Palestinian’ and that those responsible had kept it secret from everyone. He said the decision to keep it a secret did not upset anyone in what he called the ‘axis of resistance’.
He added that the on-going conflict is purely a Palestinian issue, and has no relation to any regional issue, and denied any Hezbollah involvement in the attack.
‘This glorious, blessed large scale operation [is] a hundred per cent Palestinian in terms of decision and execution,’ he said. ‘The Palestinians had kept it secret.’
Turning to the United States, Nasrallah said America was ‘entirely responsible’ for the Hamas attack, and said groups in Iraq and Syria were ‘wise’ to attack US bases, and said the Islamic Resistance in Iraq was starting to ‘take its responsibility’.
Responding to the US suggesting it would strike Hezbollah targets from two American warships stationed in the Mediterranean should the group get involved in the war, he said the ships did not scare Hezbollah.
‘We are well prepared for US warships as well,’ he said.
With his speech, Nasrallah broke weeks of silence since war broke out between Hamas and Israel following the October 7 terror attack. Since then, Lebanon’s southern border has seen escalating tit-for-tat exchanges, mainly between Israel and Hezbollah – raising fears that the conflict could spread in the Middle East.
The leader described the clashes across the border as unprecedented since 1948, the year that Israel was founded and of the Arab-Israeli war.
Hezbollah fighters carry out a training exercise in Aaramta village in the Jezzine District, southern Lebanon, Sunday, May 21, 2023
Hezbollah militants are seen preparing drones for a training exercise
The terror group’s chief Hassan Nasrallah (pictured, file photo) broke his silence today
The terror group, like Hamas, is backed by Iran, and clashes across Israel’s northern border are stoking fears of a broader conflagration of the ongoing war.
The cross-border attacks heated up on Thursday, as Israel responded with a ‘broad assault’ after Hezbollah said it attacked 19 Israeli positions simultaneously.
Rockets also hit the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona near the border in a barrage claimed by the Lebanese section of Hamas’s armed wing.
In a statement earlier on Friday, the IDF said it is on ‘very high alert’ along Israel’s northern border, and that it will ‘respond to every event’ in the region.
Nasrallah’s highly anticipated speech was broadcast as part of an event in Beirut‘s southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold, from 3.00pm (1300 GMT) on Friday.
The speech was in memory of fighters killed in Israeli attacks, but was being watched keenly for any signal from the group that it may wade deeper into the conflict on the side of Hamas.
On the Lebanese side, more than 70 people have been killed – at least 50 of them Hezbollah fighters but also other combatants and civilians, one a Reuters journalist.
On the Israeli side, nine people have died – eight soldiers and one civilian, according to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).
Some analysts believe that Hezbollah has little interest in becoming fully embroiled in a conflict that Israeli officials have threatened could destroy Lebanon.
But others say the decision lies with Iran, which leads the regional ‘axis of resistance’ against Israel, which alongside Hezbollah includes armed groups from Syria, Iraq and Yemen, some of which have attacked Israeli and US interests in recent weeks.
The grouping of Iran and terror groups has been described by the Jewish state as an ‘axis of evil hell-bent’ on destroying Israel.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has warned that ‘the region is like a powder keg’ and that ‘anything is possible’ if Israel does not stop attacking Gaza.
But Amal Saad, a Hezbollah expert at Cardiff University, said: ‘Hezbollah is not a proxy of Iran, it’s an ally of Iran.
‘Hezbollah doesn’t need anyone’s permission to intervene.’
‘Hezbollah has much more experience obviously fighting Israel than Iran does – Iran has not had a direct confrontation with Israel,’ Professor Saad added.
On Wednesday, Hezbollah published a letter from its fighters addressed to Palestinian groups in Gaza, saying they had their ‘finger with you on the trigger… to support Al-Aqsa mosque and our oppressed brothers in Palestine’.
People carry coffins of Hezbollah members Hussein Hariri, Mahmoud Darwish and Taha Hussein, who were killed in southern Lebanon amidst tension between Israel and Hezbollah, during their funeral, in Nabatieh, Lebanon, October 27
Fears are growing today that Hezbollah is set to declare war with Israel and light the touch paper for a larger conflict in the middle east. Above, Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza strip is seen on Thursday in a picture taken from the Israeli side of the border
In IDF soldier is seen with a sniper rifle in while operating in the Gaza Strip
Israeli troops are seen operating in the Gaza Strip as the war with Hamas continues
The Shiite Muslim group has mainly restricted itself to targeting Israeli observation posts, military positions and vehicles near the border as well as drones, using what it says have been anti-tank missiles, guided missiles and even surface-to-air missiles.
Israel has responded by bombing sites along the border, while drones have targeted fighters near the frontier.
US president Joe Biden, meanwhile, has sent two aircraft carrier groups to the eastern Mediterranean and warned Hezbollah and others to stay out of the conflict.
Reports in October suggested that the White House and US military officials have discussed the possibility of using military forces if Hezbollah joins the war.
And according to a CNN report on Thursday, the US has intelligence that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has agreed to provide Hezbollah with a Russian-made missile defence system, with the Russian Wagner Group tasked with delivering.
CNN said in its report that the hardware is a surface-to-air SA-22 missile system (also known as a Pantsir). It said it was not clear if it had already been delivered.
The Wall Street Journal had previously reported that Wagner – which has been heavily involved in fighting in Ukraine, operates in Syria and has significant interests in Africa – would provide the system to the terror group.
However, ‘Assad’s role has not been previously reported,’ CNN said.
One unidentified US official quoted by the Journal said that Washington had not confirmed that the system had been sent. But US officials are monitoring discussions involving Wagner and Hezbollah, the Journal said.
Smoke and flames rise following an Israeli strike on the Tal al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City
The terror group, like Hamas, is backed by Iran , and clashes across Israel’s northern border are stoking fears of a broader conflagration of the ongoing war. Pictured: An Israeli artillery unit fires during a military drill in the Golan Heights near the border with Lebanon on November 2
The Journal said that the Pantsir system – known by NATO as the SA-22 – would be provided to Hezbollah via Syria, where Russia propped up al-Assad by entering the civil war there in 2015.
Wagner Group, which was funded by the Russian state and has been brought firmly under Kremlin control since an aborted mutiny by its former leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, in June, did not reply to a request for comment from Reuters.
The US remains sceptical that Hezbollah will get involved in the Israel-Gaza war.
‘We’ve got significant national security interests at play here,’ US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
‘I don’t believe we’ve seen any indication yet specifically that Hezbollah is ready to go in full force. So we’ll see what he has to say.’
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken touched down in Tel Aviv ahead of the speech, in a trip focused on easing tensions in the wider region.
Later, he addressed the growing threat posed by Hezbollah.
‘With regard to Lebanon, with regard to Hezbollah, with regard to Iran – we have been very clear from the outset that we are determined that there not be a second or third front opened in this conflict,’ Blinken told reporters
Hezbollah, or the ‘Party of God’ in Arabic, is a Shiite Islamist political and military organisation that was founded in the 1980s during the Lebanese Civil War with the support of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
Its dual political and military setup echoes that of Hamas, but while both groups are backed by Iran, Hezbollah has evolved into a far graver military threat.
In fact, it is said to be ten times stronger than Hamas, with 200,000 missiles, rockets and mortars in its arsenal, all ready to be fired at Israel.
While Hamas is still highly dangerous – with tens of thousands of soldiers and extensive rocket stockpiles – it has no air defence capabilities and almost no heavy armour. By contrast, Hezbollah’s military wing is extremely well-equipped.
Fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah are seen riding on motorbikes and carrying Chinese QM-18 man portable air defence systems. Hezbollah has purchased Chinese tech in recent years to compliment its extensive Soviet-built arsenal of air defence weapons
In addition to the small arms, machine guns and rocket stockpiles used by Hamas, Hezbollah boasts a range of anti-tank and anti-air systems, a fleet of thousands of drones, and dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles.
It also boasts of having many more fighters.
Like Hamas, Hezbollah also has an extensive tunnel network along the Lebanese-Israeli border which serves as a strategic asset for clandestine movement, storage and surprise attacks.
In 2021, the group claimed to have 100,000 active fighters – though Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) says the number is half that.
INSS says the group’s arsenal counts 150,000 to 200,000 rockets and missiles, including ‘hundreds’ of precision rockets.
The overwhelming majority of Hezbollah’s military hardware is Soviet or Iranian made, and the group has either purchased or received donations of weapons and munitions from their Iranian backers, or from the government of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
Both Iran and Syria have proved to be key sources of financial and material support, viewing Hezbollah as a strategic ally and an instrument of influence in the region.
The border tensions of the past three weeks have revived memories of Hezbollah’s devastating 2006 war with Israel that killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 in Israel, largely soldiers.
Since then, the group – which receives financial support as well as weapons and equipment from Iran – has built up its powerful arsenal.
For years, Nasrallah has boasted that his group’s weapons could reach deep into Israeli territory.
‘Each side is carefully measuring its actions and reactions to avoid a situation that may spin out of control and spread to the region,’ said Michael Young from the Carnegie Middle East Center.
But if Hezbollah fully entered the war, ‘Lebanon’s devastation would turn most communities, perhaps even large segments of the Shiite community’, against it, he warned last week.
Israeli army soldiers sit in the turret of a battle tank moving at a position in the upper Galilee region of northern Israel near the border with Lebanon on November 1
In Lebanon, those both for and against expanding the war are holding their breath for Nasrallah’s speech.
‘We are waiting impatiently… We hope he will announce war on the Israeli enemy and the Western countries that support it,’ said Ahed Madi, 43, from the border town of Shebaa, speaking to France’s AFP news agency.
Rabih Awad, 41, from the southern town of Rachaya Al Foukhar, said a new war between Hezbollah and Israel ‘would be a death blow for Lebanon’, which is grappling with a crushing economic crisis.
‘I am against the war of extermination on the Palestinians in Gaza,’ he said. ‘But the decision to go to war must be taken by the Lebanese state, not a party or a militia.’
Hezbollah’s military hardware
DShK (heavy machine gun)
KPV (heavy machine gun)
Tanks and APCs
BMP-1 Infantry Fighting Vehicle
Israeli Namer/M113s (captured)
Modified civilian vehicles
Missiles and Artillery
Fajr-3 and Fajr-5
Strela 2 MANPAD
Strela 3 MANPAD
ZU-23 (anti-air guns)
ZPU (anti-air guns)
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk