Hezbollah buries more fighters as it prepares for possible war

Kounine in southern Lebanon buries three of its sons after they died in clashes on Tuesday

The National reports from funeral of Hezbollah member killed near Lebanon-Israel border

The National reports from funeral of Hezbollah member killed near Lebanon-Israel border
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With gunshots cracking and men wearing black carrying a coffin draped in their yellow flag, Hezbollah fighters laid another one of their members to rest on Wednesday.

Ibrahim Al Debek was one of five Hezbollah fighters to die on Tuesday, three of them from the south Lebanon town of Kounine.

It was the deadliest day for the Iran-backed group since clashes reignited with Israel about 10 days ago, and the most intense for many years.

And there are fears, at least in some parts, that those clashes could turn into a full-on war.

As Israel pummels Gaza and a ground invasion of the strangled Palestinian enclave looms, Hezbollah was already threatening to intervene and open a second front.

But the air strike on a Gaza hospital on Tuesday night, widely attributed to Israel and believed to have killed hundreds, has increased the risk.

Hezbollah had called for a day of rage on Wednesday and again engaged in armed exchanges with the enemy.

"I take pride in our act of laying to rest a martyr and in the liberation of Palestine, which is the heavenly capital on Earth," one sheikh attending the funeral in Kounine told The National.

"Our duty is to free Palestine; a sacred and biblical place.

"If Palestine requires us to shed our blood for her, we shall do so, for she is a bride, and our blood is our dowry for her.

"She deserves our all – our bodies and our souls. If Palestine demands only blood, then we shall offer it willingly."

The town of Kounine, a Shiite stronghold, is barely a few kilometres from the much contested border with Israel. War has not fully come to Kounine, but the town and its residents are not new to it.

Kounine is adorned with flags of Hezbollah, and pictures of its leader Hassan Nasrallah, deceased fighters, and those of the other Shiite political party the Amal Movement, and its leader Nabih Berry.

While Hezbollah has allowed its Palestinian allies based in Lebanon to attack Israel, the Lebanese armed group and political party has also increased its engagement. So has Israel.

As Al Debek's coffin was carried through the town, mourners shouted slogans in support of Mr Nasrallah and Gaza, and against Israel and its key backer, the US.

The entire town turned out, men, women and children. As they left, men in military fatigues had tears in their eyes as they walked down the hill.

"It's a time of mourning and a source of blessing," said a female family member. "He was a good and kind person, devoted to his country. He made the ultimate sacrifice.

“When we heard the news, we were sad but we realised that he had given his life in the fight against oppression.

"The ones who perish while battling against impunity do not die; they stay with us forever even if we cannot see them."

Hundreds turned out out from Kounine, a lush town in the hills that criss-cross the deep south of Lebanon.

Hezbollah and Israel last fought a fully fledged war in 2006, wreaking devastation on southern Lebanon and other mainly Shiite areas.

But the people of the town, at least publicly, claim they are ready. And so are Hezbollah's leaders.

"The response to the mistake you might make with our resistance will be resounding," said top official Hashem Safieddine on Wednesday, as he condemned the US, Israel and "malicious Europeans".

"Because what we have is faith and God is stronger than you – all your battleships, and all your weapons."

Updated: October 19, 2023, 5:02 AM