Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah plays down health concerns after days of speculation

Unsubstantiated reports claimed the leader of the Iran-backed Lebanese group was in a serious condition

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Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah returned to the public eye on Tuesday night following days of speculation about the health of the head of the powerful Iran-backed Lebanese political party and armed group.

A speech due to be given by Mr Nasrallah last Friday was cancelled at late notice, with Hezbollah saying he had caught the flu.

It led to a spate of reports, particularly from Israel, that the 62-year-old had suffered a stroke, was on a ventilator or in intensive care.

Israel and Hezbollah are sworn enemies who have repeatedly engaged in conflict before, including a month-long war in 2006.

But Mr Nasrallah appeared in a live broadcast on Tuesday, speaking to mark the three-year anniversary of the death of Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds Force.

While he often coughed and had a croakier voice than normal, Mr Nasrallah appeared to speak without much difficulty, although he claimed to have suffered from a sensitive throat for the past 30 years.

"We wanted to be very transparent and honest with you... I apologise if I led you to concern. I thank you for your love... and all those who prayed for me," he said in the televised speech.

"But I would like to make you rest assured because I saw that some of the media, some of the Israeli media, Gulf media... some said that I had a stroke, some said I was on certain breathing machines, I've been hospitalised, I'm in a coma," he said, blaming a flu flare up the cancellation of the speech last Friday.

While Mr Nasrallah frequently gives speeches, he has not been seen in public for years amid security concerns.

His son Jawad was among those on Sunday who rejected claims his father was severely unwell. He had said he had spoken to his father half an hour ago, in response to an Israeli media report that said Hassan Nasrallah was in a critical health situation with the flu or Covid-19 and was unconscious and on a respirator.

Lebanon and Israel remain technically in a state of war and do not recognise each other.

Updated: January 03, 2023, 7:44 PM
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