'For now, we are fighting on the frontline'

Nasrallah vows response to Arouri, warns of fight ‘without limits’ if Israel goes to war

Hezbollah head says alleged Israeli killing in Beirut of Hamas terror chief was a ‘major and dangerous crime’ that won’t go unpunished; says Israel would ‘regret’ all-out war

People watch a televised speech in Beirut by Lebanon's Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah on January 3, 2024, a day after the killing in the city of a Hamas terror chief. The speech was pre-scheduled to mark the anniversary of the killing Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. (Anwar Amro/AFP)
People watch a televised speech in Beirut by Lebanon's Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah on January 3, 2024, a day after the killing in the city of a Hamas terror chief. The speech was pre-scheduled to mark the anniversary of the killing Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. (Anwar Amro/AFP)

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel against waging war on Lebanon in a televised address Wednesday, a day after a strike blamed on Israel killed Hamas’s political number two, terror chief Salah al-Arouri, in a Hezbollah stronghold in the southern Beirut suburbs.

“If the enemy thinks of waging a war on Lebanon, we will fight without restraint, without rules, without limits and without restrictions,” Nasrallah said in his address, which had been pre-planned to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the death of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp general Qassem Soleimani.

“We are not afraid of war,” Nasrallah said, but did not issue a concrete threat to initiate war. “For now,” he said, “we are fighting on the frontline following meticulous calculations.”

Both the Iran-backed Lebanese terror group and Hamas have accused Israel of killing Arouri in Dahiyeh, Beirut on Tuesday night, with Nasrallah describing the attack as a “major and dangerous crime” that “will not go unanswered and unpunished” — repeating a threat made by the group itself on Tuesday.

The strike that killed al-Arouri marked “the first time they target the southern suburbs in this way since 2006,” Nasrallah said, in reference to that year’s Second Lebanon War which saw Beirut’s southern suburbs bombed.

Israel had sent “messages” to indicate it “did not intend to target Lebanon or Hezbollah,” but was rather “settling scores” with Hamas leaders, the Hezbollah leader added.

A worker carries power cables passes in front of an apartment building where an apparent Israeli strike Tuesday killed top Hamas leader Saleh Arouri, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024. (AP/Hussein Malla)

Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari did not directly comment on al-Arouri’s killing, but said on Tuesday night the military was “highly prepared for any scenario” in its aftermath.

The attack on al-Arouri has sparked fears of a broader conflagration because he is the most high-profile figure to be killed since the October 7 Hamas massacres in southern Israel and because his death came in the first strike on the Lebanese capital since hostilities started.

Since the deadly Hamas onslaught of October 7, in which some 1,200 people were slaughtered, mostly civilians, and around 240 were taken hostage, Hezbollah and allied Palestinian terror factions have engaged in daily cross-border clashes with Israeli troops along the Lebanon border. Lebanese terrorists have also targeted Israeli civilians and their homes, forcing tens of thousands to evacuate the area.

The fighting along the border has resulted in four civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of nine IDF soldiers.

Hezbollah has named 143 members who have been killed by Israel in the same period, five of them in the last day. Another 19 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 19 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have also been killed.

Israel’s political and military leaders have said repeatedly since October 7 that Hezbollah will have to withdraw its forces from the border area to north of the Litani River, as required by 2006’s UN Resolution 1701, and that either this will be achieved diplomatically or by force.

In this photo released on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023, by the Hezbollah Media Relations Office, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, right, meets with Ziad al-Nakhaleh, the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, center, and Hamas deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, in Beirut, Lebanon. (Hezbollah Media Relations Office, via AP )

In his speech, Nasrallah claimed that “Israel has been weakened” by Hamas, and added that the country was “now on the path to extinction.”

“Last night,” he said, “they were trying to present an image of victory with the treacherous assassination of Sheikh Saleh [al-Arouri]. But in Gaza, where is it?”

Saying that the Lebanese shelling of Israeli troops has prevented a broader bombing campaign in Gaza, Nasrallah claimed falsely that Israel is hiding thousands of casualties from Hezbollah attacks on the northern border, and that “hundreds of thousands” have left the country since October.

Addressing Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, the Hezbollah leader warned that Israel “will not succeed in achieving the war’s goals.”

“Whoever thinks of war with us — in one word, he will regret it,” he added.

Referring to Hezbollah’s missile and rocket capabilities and asserting that they have deterred Israel from going to war thus far, Nasrallah said: “There’s an Israeli general who has said clearly two or three times, ‘I was just with [Prime Minister] Netanyahu. I sat with him twice. And I convinced him not to go to war with Lebanon because that would lead to the destruction of the Dan region.’ What does the Dan region mean?” Nasrallah asked rhetorically. “The rectangular area around Tel Aviv, where three-quarters of Israel’s population is.”

The general in question, former senior IDF officer and Defense Ministry Ombudsman Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, said late Wednesday that Hezbollah’s rockets and missiles were part of what he called “the gravest existential threat since the foundation of the state.” Thousands of projectiles could be fired daily “at population centers, IDF bases, electricity and water infrastructure. Everybody knows this, not only Nasrallah. We know this. They know what they have. We haven’t prepared for this.”

Hezbollah is estimated to have some 150,000 rockets and missiles, including thousands or tens of thousands with the range to reach central Israel, and hundreds of precision-guided missiles.

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