BEIRUT — The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group on Monday categorically denied accusations that his group is sending weapons to Yemen and that it was responsible for a ballistic missile fired by Shiite rebels there and intercepted near the Saudi capital, Riyadh, but proudly admitted to sending weapons to the Gaza Strip.
In a televised speech from Beirut, Nasrallah said the allegations relating to Yemen were “silly” and “completely baseless.”
Saudi officials accuse Hezbollah and Iran of arming the Shiite rebels in Yemen, known as Houthis. Saudi Arabia has led an Arab coalition fighting the Houthis, with the support of Yemen’s exiled internationally recognized government, since 2015, in a stalemated war that has exacerbated a growing humanitarian crisis.
He denied sending weapons to any Arab country except “occupied Palestine,” which he said the group was proud of.
“We only sent Kornet missiles to the Gaza Strip,” Nasrallah said, referring to anti-tank missiles used against Israeli forces, “while in Syria we’re fighting with our weapons.”
Nasrallah denounced an Arab League statement issued by Arab foreign ministers who met in Cairo Sunday that described Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and blamed the Shiite group for supporting “terrorist groups” across the region, and supplying them with weapons, including ballistic missiles.
“I categorically deny any role of any member of Hezbollah in launching this missile,” said Nasrallah of the rocket shot toward Riyadh.
He said that the group has not sent ballistic missiles, advanced weapons “or even a pistol” to Yemen, Bahrain, or Kuwait — the countries where the group is accused of supporting government critics.
Nasrallah denounced the Arab ministerial meeting for failing to condemn or call for an end to the war in Yemen, and said Arab leaders should support Hezbollah defending Lebanon against Israel.
“The most important factor for Lebanon’s security is the Resistance and Hezbollah’s arms. If you want security for Lebanon, do not interfere in its affairs and do not incite Israel to strike it,” he said, addressing Saudi Arabia, according to Lebanese news site Naharnet.
He also said that Hezbollah is ready to withdraw its experts from Iraq once the government in Baghdad declares victory against the Islamic State group there.
“Hezbollah’s mission in Iraq has been accomplished with the Islamic State group’s defeat,” he said.
Hezbollah has sent advisers and commanders to Iraq, assisting Shiite militias in their war against IS. The group has also sent thousands of its fighters to neighboring Syria to shore up President Bashar Assad’s forces. “If there is no need for them in Iraq anymore, we will withdraw them and send them to areas where they are needed,” he said. Nasrallah did not mention his group’s fighters in Syria.
Hezbollah’s presence in Syria is a concern for Israel which believes the Iranian proxy militia could use Syria territory to open another front against the Jewish state alongside Lebanon, its home territory.
Earlier Monday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said his country had been subject to Israeli “aggression” for decades and had the right to protect itself.
“The Lebanese have the right to fight and thwart it with all available means,” Aoun said in a defense of Hezbollah’s military might.
Last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Israel will not tolerate Iran’s presence in Syria as part of a US-Russian ceasefire deal that will reportedly allow Iranian-linked militias to remain in the country.
“We simply will not allow Shiite and Iranian entrenchment in Syria. And we will not allow all of Syria to become a forward operating base against the State of Israel. Whoever doesn’t understand that — should understand that,” Liberman said.
A day earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that the ceasefire terms did not include a Russian commitment to ensure Iran-linked militias would be pulled out of Syria.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.