Nasrallah: If Israel chooses war, response will be without limits or constraints

The Hezbollah leader, known for long and meandering speeches, kept his Wednesday night address relatively brief and said he would speak in more detail Friday

Hezbollah leader: 'War with us would be very costly'

Hezbollah leader: 'War with us would be very costly'
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A decision by Israel to enter a full-scale war with Lebanon's Hezbollah “would be costly” and “without limits or constraints”, the group's leader Hassan Nasrallah warned in a much-anticipated speech on Wednesday evening.

The leader of the Lebanese, Iran-backed group said he was not worried about being dragged into a war with Israel – “although we have so far attempted to manage Lebanon’s best interests”.

“If war is launched against Lebanon, then Lebanese interests require that we take the war to the end,” he said.

The Hezbollah leader's speech came near the fourth anniversary of the death of Iran's Maj Gen Qassem Suleimani, who was killed in a US strike in Iraq in 2020.

It also came on the day following Israel’s assassination of Hamas second-in-command Saleh Al Arouri in Beirut.

Mr Nasrallah called the assassination a “flagrant Israeli attack on the Dahieh suburb of Beirut”, calculated by Israel to coincide with the anniversary of Maj Gen Suleimani’s death.

Tuesday's strike was two-pronged, according to Mr Nasrallah: it targeted Mr Al Arouri, a Hamas leader-in-exile residing in Lebanon under Hezbollah’s protection, as well as the residential suburb in Lebanon's capital known to be Hezbollah's seat of power.

It was the first such attack since the 2006 war with Israel.

“The Israelis said yesterday evening that they were not attacking Beirut but specifically targeting Hamas. Only cowards speak like this,” he said, describing the assassination of Mr Al Arouri as a “serious crime” that will not go unpunished.

Mr Nasrallah warned Israel not to make the mistake of thinking that Hezbollah’s “precise calculations” were indicative of “fear or reluctance to enter war”.

“If we were scared, we’d have stood aside from the beginning,” he said.

“If the enemy thinks of waging war against us, our fighting will be without limits and without constraints.

He also noted the group’s many personnel losses as a result of Israel’s strikes on southern Lebanon since October 8.

Since early October, Hezbollah and allied militant groups have engaged in cross-border attacks primarily on military installations near the border with Israel, seeking to deter it from its assault on Gaza. Israel has responded increasingly aggressively, although Hezbollah has maintained a relatively steady tempo of conflict.

The leader’s speech on Wednesday largely focused on honouring Maj Gen Suleimani, and other “martyrs” – including Mr Al Arouri and Reza Mousavi, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commander killed in Syria last week, among others.

“The resistance axis did not exist years ago,” Mr Nasrallah said, attributing the development of the network of Iran-backed allied groups across the region – such as the Houthis in Yemen and Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq – to the efforts of Maj Gen Suleimani.

He explained that axis groups share a vision for the future of the region and an opposition to the Israeli occupation.

Each group operates according to its own strategic vision and local agenda, he said, stressing that the so-called “resistance axis” does not follow a centralised command.

He also credited Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,200 people and precipitated Israel’s invasion os Gaza, as a success in returning the attention of the international community to the Palestinian issue and jump-starting serious discussions over a potential two-state solution.

The operation, called Al Aqsa Flood, “revived the Palestinian cause across the world”, he said.

“Israel has fallen [in the eyes of the world]: morally, legally and humanely. In the eyes of the world, Israel is a killer of children and women … and the perpetrator of the largest genocide of the current century.”

The Hezbollah leader said Israel would not achieve its goals in Gaza.

“They were unable to recover any hostage alive. They cannot and will not be able to advance,” he said.

“They have not imposed their political will on, nor shaped the future of the administration of the Gaza Strip.”

Israel has repeatedly rebuffed calls for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, where more than 22,000 people have been killed in air strikes since October 7, saying it aims to completely eradicate Hamas in the enclave.

The Hezbollah leader, known for long and meandering speeches, kept his Wednesday night address relatively brief.

He declined to discuss developments in Lebanon or Mr Al Arouri’s assassination – which a previous Hezbollah statement called “a serious assault on Lebanon” – in detail, saying he would address the incident further on Friday despite public expectation that his Wednesday speech would convey decisive action.

Hezbollah would “fight to the end, without restrictions” if Lebanon is dragged deeper into the war, he warned.

Updated: January 04, 2024, 8:03 AM