BEIRUT — A top official with Hezbollah vows that Israel will pay a high price whenever it starts a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip and says that his terror group based in Lebanon already is “in the heart of the battle.”
The comments by Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Sheikh Naim Qassem, came as Israel shelled and carried out drone strikes in southern Lebanon and Hezbollah fired rockets and missiles toward Israel. Hezbollah said six of its fighters were killed today, the highest daily toll since the violence began two weeks ago.
For Hezbollah, heating up the Lebanon-Israel border has a clear purpose, Qassem says: “We are trying to weaken the Israeli enemy and let them know that we are ready.” Hamas officials have said that if Israel starts a ground offensive in Gaza, Hezbollah will join the fighting.
Qassem says his Iran-backed group, which is allied with Hamas, already is affecting the course of the conflict by heating up the Lebanon-Israel border and keeping three Israeli army divisions tied up in the north instead of preparing to fight in Gaza.
“Do you believe that if you try to crush the Palestinian resistance, other resistance fighters in the region will not act?” Qassem says in a speech during the funeral of a Hezbollah fighter. “We are in the heart of the battle today. We are making achievements through this battle.”
Qassem also comments on foreign dignitaries who visited Lebanon over the past two weeks asking Lebanese officials to convince the group not to take part in the latest Hamas-Israel battle. He says Hezbollah’s response to Lebanese officials is, “We are part of the battle.”
“We tell those who are contacting us, ‘Stop the (Israeli) aggression so that its (conflict) repercussions and possibility of expansion stops,’” Qassem says, referring to the officials who recently visited Beirut, including the foreign ministers of France and Germany.
Speaking about an expected Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, Qassem, says: “Our information are that the preparedness in Gaza by Hamas and resistance fighters will make (the) Israeli ground invasion their graveyard.”