In Lebanon, Iran FM meets with Hezbollah chief and Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials

In second visit since Oct.7, Amir-Abdollahian meets with leaders of three terror groups backed by Tehran, threatens conflict will expand if Gaza war resumes after lull

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

This handout picture provided by Hezbollah's media office on November 23, 2023, shows Lebanese Shiite group's secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah (2nd-R) meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (2nd-L) at an undisclosed location in Lebanon. (Hezbollah's Media Office / AFP)
This handout picture provided by Hezbollah's media office on November 23, 2023, shows Lebanese Shiite group's secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah (2nd-R) meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (2nd-L) at an undisclosed location in Lebanon. (Hezbollah's Media Office / AFP)

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met with Hezbollah terror group leader Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday, at an undisclosed location in Lebanon.

Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Beirut a day earlier for his second visit to the country since the October 7 massacre. Their previous meeting was on October 14.

Upon his arrival, Tehran’s foreign minister was welcomed at Beirut’s airport by a delegation of Lebanese and Palestinian officials, including members of the Lebanese parliament.

Later on Wednesday, Amir-Abdollahian met with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a Shiite and a close ally of Hezbollah, and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on the occasion of Lebanon’s Independence Day.

He also held talks with Ziad al-Nakhaleh, secretary general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Khalil Al-Hayya, a member of the Hamas politburo, according to the Iranian official news agency Fars.

Iran is the main state sponsor of the three terror groups, among others, and has been providing them with financial and military aid over the years in its declared effort to annihilate Israel.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian at a press conference at Beirut airport during a visit to Lebanon, November 22, 2023 (from the website of Hezbollah’s media outlet Al Manar)

In an interview with the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news channel on Wednesday, Amir-Abdollahian said that the Gaza war is likely to spread unless the truce between Israel and Hamas, which is expected to go into effect by Friday, is maintained.

“If it does not continue… the conditions in the region will not remain the same as before the ceasefire and the scope of the war will expand,” he said.

The truce agreement that was finalized between Israel and Hamas on Tuesday, and approved by the Israeli cabinet early Wednesday morning, stipulates that Hamas will release 50 Israeli women and children hostages who were abducted and taken into Gaza during the terror group’s October 7 terror onslaught. Some 240 hostages are being held overall. The hostages will be released in groups of 12-13 per day over four days, starting on Friday or later.

In exchange, Israel has agreed to a truce for those four days, for the first time since the outbreak of the war, as well as the release of 150 teenage and female Palestinian security prisoners. The halt in fighting could be extended by one additional day for each additional group of 10 Israeli hostages freed, after which Israel’s campaign to destroy Hamas in Gaza is expected to resume.

Hamas declared that while it had agreed to a truce, “our fingers will remain on the trigger, and our victorious fighters will remain on the lookout to defend our people and repel the occupation.”

The Lebanon-based Hezbollah announced on Wednesday that it would participate in the four-day truce, even though it was not part of the negotiations, as long as Israel abides by the agreement both in Gaza and on the Lebanon border.

In comments later Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had made no truce commitments regarding the northern border, and that Hezbollah would be judged “by its actions.”

Supporters of the Lebanese Shiite terror group Hezbollah wave flags as they watch a televised speech by leader Hassan Nasrallah (unseen) in the Lebanese capital Beirut’s southern suburbs on November 3, 2023. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)

Hezbollah, together with Hamas and other terror groups in southern Lebanon, has routinely fired rockets at Israeli cities and attacked IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians on the Israel-Lebanon border since October 7, resulting in a number of fatalities.

The IDF has hit Hezbollah operatives and positions in response, killing dozens of the group’s fighters. On Thursday, five Hezbollah terrorists were killed in an IDF raid on a house in south Lebanon’s Beit Yahun, including Abbas Raad, son of a Mohammed Raad, a senior lawmaker and head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc.

The Lebanese terror group claims to have tens of thousands of fighters and possesses a reported arsenal of some 150,000 rockets and missiles of different types.

Hezbollah chief Nasrallah declared in two speeches over the past month that his terror group joined the fighting to divert Israeli forces from Gaza to the Lebanese front. Hezbollah stopped short of announcing full-fledged participation in the conflict alongside Hamas. Nasrallah has also asserted that neither Hezbollah nor Iran knew in advance about Hamas’s October 7 plans.

In addition to the two war fronts in Gaza and on the Lebanon border, the IDF since October 7 has also been dealing with a threat coming from Yemen, where the Iran-backed Houthi terror group has repeatedly launched ballistic missiles and drones at the southern Israeli city of Eilat. All of the launches were intercepted or missed their target. The latest interception from Yemen was on Wednesday. On Sunday, Houthis seized the Galaxy Leader, an Israel-linked cargo ship sailing in the Red Sea.

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