Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip have defeated Israel in the 18-day conflict, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah asserted Friday, saying the Jewish state has failed to stop rocket fire and stamp out the group’s operatives in the Palestinian enclave.
In his first remarks on the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian fighting that erupted on July 8, Nasrallah warned Israel that its efforts to wage war in the Gaza Strip would falter if they were to continue.
“Ehud Barak said that in any possible war between Israel and Gaza, it would be quick and decisive and the victory would be clear,” Nasrallah said, referring to Israel’s former prime minister and defense minister, “but Gaza today says to them — you are cowards that murder children, and if you face our heroes face to face, you and your army will fall.”
Nasrallah’s speech was reported to be a rare public appearance before a crowd of supporters, though TV footage which only showed the Hezbollah leader alone in extreme close-up made the claim dubious. The speech was given to mark “Al-Quds Day,” a day of solidarity with Palestinians that Arabs traditionally observe on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Al-Quds is Arabic for Jerusalem.
The terror group’s leader claimed that, as in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Israel used a kidnapping as a pretext to engage in combat, “thinking it had a golden opportunity to open a war on Gaza.”
Nasrallah added that not just Hamas but all of Gaza was being targeted by Israel. “The target is every rocket and every tunnel in Gaza and every drop of blood of the Gazans.”
Hezbollah, a Shiite group, has long been one of the closest allies of Hamas, the main Palestinian Sunni faction which controls Gaza. Both terror groups are backed by Iran.
But relations between Hamas and Hezbollah soured following the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule in Syria, which erupted in March 2011, became an insurgency waged by overwhelmingly Sunni rebels, and later descended into full-blown civil war.
On Friday, however, Nasrallah called for putting all disputes aside in support of Gaza.
“From here I say to our brothers in Gaza, we are with you and beside you and confident of your steadfastness and your victory and we will do everything we can to support you,” he said, though he did not elaborate.