Nasrallah to give TV interview after long public absence and ill health rumor
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Nasrallah to give TV interview after long public absence and ill health rumor

Hezbollah chief on Saturday expected to address Israeli operation to destroy cross-border tunnels from Lebanon, in first appearance in months

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks via a video link, as his supporters raise their hands, during activities to mark the ninth of Ashura, a 10-day ritual commemorating the death of Imam Hussein, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on September 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks via a video link, as his supporters raise their hands, during activities to mark the ninth of Ashura, a 10-day ritual commemorating the death of Imam Hussein, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on September 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Amid reports of his failing health and a long absence from the public eye, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah will give an interview later this week to a television channel associated with the Lebanese terror group.

In a short promotional clip released Sunday, al-Mayadeen said Nasrallah would appear on the network Saturday evening. Nasrallah typically grants an interview to the satellite channel around this time each year.

“Hezbollah’s secretary-general breaks his silence that frightens the occupation,” the video said.

In the interview, Nasrallah is expected to address for the first time an operation launched by the Israeli military last month to locate and destroy cross-border tunnels dug by Hezbollah. The Israel Defense Forces have said the underground passages were meant to bring fighters into Israeli territory as part of an opening salvo in a future war.

The IDF announced the end of the Operation Northern Shield last week.

“In occupied Palestine, Israel’s leadership is boasting about its Northern Shield, taking pride in its battles against Hezbollah and Syria and threatening Iran. In this way, Hezbollah’s leader responds,” al-Mayadeen said.

Israeli troops search for attack tunnels dug into Israel from southern Lebanon that the Israeli military believes Hezbollah planned to use in future wars, in January 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Nasrallah has not made a public appearance in months, leading to unconfirmed reports he was in critical condition following a heart attack brought on by cancer.

An official from Iran, Hezbollah’s main backer, dismissed the rumors as a “Zionist lie.”

Earlier this month, Europe-based Lebanese journalist Jerry Maher tweeted that unnamed intelligence sources had confirmed Nasrallah was taken to the hospital in Beirut in critical condition, and that he has been battling cancer for years.

Maher posted Twitter updates including claims that Hezbollah rejected a suggestion for Nasrallah to be moved to the Syrian capital Damascus for treatment by Russian and Iranian doctors.

Some Hebrew media reports said that Nasrallah had suffered a heart attack.

Maher noted that the Hezbollah leader has not been seen for weeks.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gestures during a rally to mark Jerusalem Day or Al-Quds Day, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, August 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

In the past, claims of Nasrallah’s death or severe illness have been countered by the publication of videos in which he was shown commenting on current affairs.

Nasrallah, 58, took over the Iran-backed Hezbollah group after its previous leader was killed in a 1992 targeted assassination by Israeli helicopters on his convoy.

As a precaution against a repeat of the incident, Nasrallah’s movements are shrouded in mystery with few public appearances. The Hezbollah leader frequently releases videos or live television broadcasts.

In his speeches, Nasrallah often makes threats to attack Israel. Hezbollah has accumulated an arsenal of hundreds of thousands of ground attack rockets, and is considered to be a more powerful military force than the Lebanese army.

Hezbollah is designated a terror organization, either entirely or partly, by Israel, the United States, the European Union and other countries.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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