Hezbollah leader threatens to displace millions of Israelis if all-out war breaks out

Hassan Nasrallah also derides western efforts to mediate on border de-escalation without pressuring Israel over a ceasefire in Gaza

Supporters of Hezbollah listen to a speech by leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut on Tuesday. EPA
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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday responded to Israeli threats of all-out war against Lebanon by doubling down and warning there would be no peace on the Israel-Lebanon border without a ceasefire in Gaza.

“All options are on the table. Our eyes are on Gaza as we fight on the border,” he said, directly addressing the Israeli state. “If you widen [the front], we will widen. If you intensify, we will intensify.”

Hezbollah and armed allies have been waging a cross-border conflict against Israel since October 8, aiming to support its long-time ally Hamas and deter Israel from its assault on the Gaza Strip.

Tens of thousands of people on both sides of the Lebanon-Israel border have been displaced in the fighting, now in its fifth month.

Israel has repeatedly threatened to escalate the conflict with Hezbollah with the goal of allowing Israelis to return to border areas and ensuring their security.

“The stopwatch for a diplomatic solution is running out,” said Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant in late December. "If the world and the Lebanese government don’t act to prevent the fire towards northern communities and to distance Hezbollah from the border, the [Israeli army] will do it.”

He repeated similar threats this month, saying Israel would "restore security for residents of the north", whether via diplomacy or military means.

Nasrallah said 100,000 Israelis had been displaced from northern Israel due to the fighting, and warned that in an all-out war this number would rise sharply.

“You will have to find a place to shelter two million people from the north,” he said.

Nasrallah said he remained committed to the rule of proportionality Hezbollah has maintained as it sought to support Hamas without drawing the fragile Lebanese state into full-scale conflict.

“If the Zionist enemy carries out any action, we will return to the same equations and rules and our responses will be proportionate,” he said.

The Hezbollah leader cast derision on French and US efforts to mediate a ceasefire on the Lebanon-Israel border, saying “every delegation that has come to Lebanon in the past months had one objective: the security and protection of Israel and the return of the 100,000 settlers to their settlements”.

“The western delegations are presenting the Israeli proposal just as it is given to them” – without discussion or negotiation – “and submitting it to Lebanon,” he said, referring to a written proposal submitted by France to Lebanon last week. “But the enemy is not in a position to place conditions on Lebanon.”

Under the proposal, Hezbollah’s combat units would withdraw 10km from the Lebanese border. It then envisages a ceasefire followed by negotiations on the delineation of the contentious land border between the two countries.

Hezbollah has consistently said it will only de-escalate in the border area when Israel stops its offensive in Gaza.

“Lebanon is in the position to set conditions, not Israel. I call on the Lebanese authorities to set firmer conditions in these talks,” Nasrallah warned.

Updated: April 08, 2024, 9:53 AM