Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned on Saturday his group may seek to escalate its conflict with Israel, after responding to Israeli airstrikes on Thursday with a series of rocket attacks.
In a televised speech to mark the 15th anniversary of the 2006 war with Israel, Nasrallah endeavoured to justify launching rockets from a non-Hezbollah area an incident which almost lead to violent clashes between Hezbollah and Lebanon’s Druze community this week.
Nasrallah said that his group were forced to launch rockets from “non-Shiite areas” in Lebanon’s south in order to hit unpopulated areas in Israel’s north and maintain the threat of deterrence.
“If we could target the selected area from our homes, we would have. But we wanted to target a specific area in Israel without civilians to avoid escalation.
“The only way to get to that area was to cross these villages,” the Hezbollah leader said.
Early on Friday, a Hezbollah missile launcher was seized by Druze villagers in the village of Chouya, in the area of Hasbaya, after launching a huge barrage of rockets towards Israel - the barrage was Iran-backed Hezbollah's largest rocket attack on Israel since the war in 2006.
The barrage came in response to Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon, also the first such attacks since the month-long war 15 years ago.
Furious villagers detained the Hezbollah members, and handed the lorry over to the Lebanese army in a rare example of resistance against the group in an area where it enjoys overwhelming dominance. Tit-for-tat incidents that followed almost spilt over into ethnic violence.
Hasbaya said that “only a handful of people attacked resistance [Hezbollah] fighters and they responded with discipline.
“Don’t blame all the people of Chouya, just the attackers themselves,” he said.
Nasrallah also used the speech to claim that Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation into the explosion at Beirut port last August was ”politicised.”
He mocked those claiming Hezbollah was responsible for storing the ammonium nitrate which exploded in the port’s warehouses killing at least 214 people, though he did not name the group’s critics.
Nasrallah also condemned the retaliatory attack on the funeral of a Hezbollah member in Khalde last Sunday, in which 4 Hezbollah members were killed by Sunni Arab tribesmen, as a "massacre" and claimed the attack was "premediated and organised".