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Hezbollah chief said to hunker down amid fears he could be targeted by Israel

Reported precaution follows assassination of top Iran nuclear scientist; praising the hit, an Israeli official says ‘the world is a safer place’ without Mohsen Fakhrizadeh

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah gives an address on official party al-Manar TV on September 29, 2020. (Screenshot: Al-Manar)
Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah gives an address on official party al-Manar TV on September 29, 2020. (Screenshot: Al-Manar)

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is sheltering in place amid fears that he may be next on a US-Israeli hit list, according to an Israeli television report on Sunday.

Channel 13 reported that Nasrallah is staying put and canceling any “movements,” following the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist on Friday in a raid attributed to Israel.

The leader of the Iran-backed terror group in Lebanon has been thought to be a target of Israel for years, and some officials have mocked him for staying in a “bunker” and only making very rare public appearances.

Such a hit by Israel would likely seriously inflame the region.

In this picture released by the Iranian Defense Ministry and taken on Saturday, November 28, 2020, caretakers from the Imam Reza holy shrine, carry the flag draped coffin of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist linked to the country’s disbanded military nuclear program, who was killed on Friday, during a funeral ceremony in the northeastern city of Mashhad, Iran. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

The highly public killing on Friday of Iran nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh prompted widespread condemnation from Iran, which explicitly accused Israel of being responsible for the attack and threatened to exact revenge for it.

Israel has been bracing for possible Iranian retaliation, reportedly putting embassies on high alert.

The Israel Defense Forces, however, remained in its normal routine in apparent indication that it did not anticipate an Iranian retaliation in the form of an immediate military strike from Lebanon or Syria.

At the same time, the IDF said in a statement that it was “aware of the possible developments in the region” and would “maintain full preparedness against any expression of violence against us.”

The United Nations and European Union criticized the operation — without naming Israel — saying it inflamed tensions in the region. Some American Democrats also spoke out against the raid, saying it appeared to be an effort to hobble efforts by US President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal, a move that Jerusalem staunchly opposes along with several Sunni Arab states.

A photo released by the semi-official Fars News Agency shows the scene where Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran, Iran, November 27, 2020 (Fars News Agency via AP); insert: Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an undated photo. (Courtesy)

While Israel remained officially mum on the killing of Fakhrizadeh and its alleged role in it, an Israeli minister publicly praised the results of the operation.

“The assassination in Iran, whoever did it, it serves not only Israel, but the whole region and the world,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told the Kan public broadcaster on Sunday.

Other Israeli officials praised the killing anonymously, with one telling Channel 13 on Sunday night: “Fakhrizadeh’s activities had to be stopped. The world is a safer place without him.”

Fakhrizadeh was named by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018 as the director of Iran’s nuclear weapons project. When Netanyahu revealed then that Israel had removed from a warehouse in Tehran a vast archive of Iran’s own material detailing with its nuclear weapons program, he said: “Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh.”

Iran has suffered several devastating attacks this year, including the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike in January, and a mysterious explosion and fire that crippled an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, which is widely believed to have been an act of sabotage.

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