Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is set to make his first public comments since Israel began bombing Gaza, in retaliation for the deadly attack by Hamas on the south of the country on 7 October. Hezbollah is part of what Iran calls the “Axis of Resistance” alongside Hamas.
Israel fears the speech – slated for 3pm local time – will see the formidable Iran-backed force announce the start of an all-out regional war or mark a significant escalation in strikes along its northern border.
On the eve of the speech – which has been promoted in dramatic video teasers – Hezbollah launched its heaviest attacks yet in more than three weeks of clashes at the border The militants said they pounded Israeli positions with more than 19 simultaneous strikes and used explosive drones for the first time.
Israeli military officials said that the strikes stretched the length of the border and followed a surge in anti-tank, rocket and drone fire as well as the deployment of surface-to-air missiles on their aircraft. The Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah allies, meanwhile fired a long range drone which Israel also shot down.
The Israeli military fears the war in Gaza is evolving into a regional conflict and announced that their response will “be very very severe”.
“We’re getting ready for the speech we hope Nasrallah doesn’t escalate, it wouldn’t be worth his while to do that,” said Lt Colonel Richard Hecht, a military spokesperson.
“We’re saying to Lebanon, don’t sacrifice your future for Hamas – they have a choice to make… We hope it stays as it is”
Unlike Hamas, Hebollah is battle hardened by over a decade of fighting in Syria and is equipped with a stockpile of more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, including precision long range missiles from Iran.
The Israelis believe they have as many 20,000 active fighters with tens of thousand in reserve.
An all out war between Hezbollah and Israel – last seen for a month in 2006 – would therefore be devastating for both sides and could draw in Syria, Iran, Yemen on one side, and the US on the other. Fearing the worst, Washington has already deployed several aircraft carriers to the region.
Israel has also now deployed three of its multi-tiered air defence systems: Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow. With Arrow intercepting its first incoming fire from Yemen on Thursday.
But, privately, the military admit that all three would be hard pushed to completely protect Israeli civilians if Lebanon launches an all out war, because of the sheer quantity and quality of Hezbollah’s firepower.
Hezbollah is, however, facing growing pressure from within its own ranks – including affiliated smaller Palestinian armed groups – as Israel pushes deeper into Gaza and announces it has “encircled” the largest city.
The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza say more than 9,000 people have been killed in Israel’s bombardment, most of them women and children.
Nasrallah, who wears the black turban of a sayyed, or a descendent of the Prophet Mohammad, and Shia clerical robes, is one of the most prominent figures in the Arab world.
A skilled orator, his speeches are closely watched by supporters and foes, with the US designating him a terrorist.
His speech on Friday has been trailed by videos shared to social media networks, showing him looking at the Hezbollah flag and preparing his speech papers.
On Friday ahead of the speech Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, released an extraordinary communique in Hebrew on Twitter telling the world Israel “is lying to you”
He warned that Israel is “helpless and confused now and without American support will be silenced within days”.
Earlier he had called Muslim states to cease oil and food exports to Israel, demanding an end to its bombardment of the Gaza Strip,.
“The Islamic world should not forget that in the crucial issue of Gaza, those standing against the oppressed Palestinian nation were the United States, France and Britain,” Khamenei said.
Original News : https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-gaza-hamas-hezbollah-lebanon-b2441088.html