Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah addressed crowds via a televised speech Saturday, saying his forces didn’t want war with Israel, but that they were alert and should not be underestimated. He also defended his Shi’ite group’s involvement in the bloody, three-year Syrian civil war.
The militant chief warned that Jerusalem shouldn’t think that Hezbollah (“Party of God”) was too busy fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in that country’s uprising that it wouldn’t be able to defend itself against what he called Israeli aggression.
“We’re not looking for a war,” Nasrallah said from his undisclosed location, but he added that Hezbollah was “much stronger” than it was during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, in terms of weapons, training, and human potential, and that Israel was well aware of its bolstered military capabilities.
He also asserted that Hezbollah’s deterrence had kept the villages in southern Lebanon safe while forcing Israel to think carefully before launching attacks in the area.
Nasrallah also took the occasion to jab outgoing Lebanese President Michael Suleiman, a vocal critic of Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict. In a February speech, Suleiman called Hezbollah’s tag line “people, resistance, army” a “wooden” or stale saying — to which Nasrallah responded Saturday by saying that the formula was “golden.”
He continued by saying that in Lebanon there was gold and also wood — but that “wood is reserved for the coffins of occupation [Israeli] soldiers.”
He added: “Jihad activity, steadfastness, and sacrifice are all an expression of our culture of resistance.”
Nasrallah said that younger generations shouldn’t be confused by Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, and that the group is, first and foremost, an anti-Zionist “resistance” organization born out of the struggle against the Jewish state. He added that Hezbollah was intervening in Syria to protect Lebanon, because the outcome of the Syrian war would affect the Lebanese people.
The comments were the terror chief’s first since Israel shot and reportedly killed two armed gunmen at the Syria-Israel Golan border on Friday night and since four IDF soldiers were injured, one of them critically, earlier this month by a roadside bomb near the Israeli-Syrian border. Some Israeli military sources blamed Hezbollah for that attack.
The army said it held the Syrian army responsible for the earlier attack, for which it launched punitive strikes against the regime in Damascus. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attack came amid a recent influx of “jihadists and Hezbollah members” near Syria’s border with Israel, which he said “poses a new challenge.”