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Hezbollah chief warns arch-enemy Israel against wider war with Lebanon

Lebanese Hezbollah leader Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah delivers a televised speech at the memorial service for Taleb Abdullah.  , Taleb Abdullah was killed on June 11 along with three other Hezbollah fighters in an Israeli attack on the village of Jouaiyeh in southern Lebanon.

Lebanese Hezbollah leader Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah delivers a televised speech at the memorial service for Taleb Abdullah. , Taleb Abdullah was killed on June 11 along with three other Hezbollah fighters in an Israeli attack on the village of Jouaiyeh in southern Lebanon. Image source: Reuters

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah warned on June 20 that the group had new weapons and intelligence capabilities that could help it target key positions deeper inside Israel in the event of an all-out war.

Hassan Nasrallah’s comments come as months-long cross-border conflict between Hezbollah and Israel appears to have reached a boiling point, a day after top U.S. envoys met with Lebanese officials in an attempt to ease tensions.

Also read: Hezbollah | Gathering of Gods

“We now have new weapons. But I will not reveal what they are,” he said in a televised speech commemorating the death of a senior Hezbollah commander killed in an Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon last week. “They will be on the front lines when decisions are made.”

For the first time since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza broke out last October, Hezbollah used locally made explosive drones and surface-to-air missiles against Israeli warplanes.

Nasrallah said in 2021 that Hezbollah had 100,000 fighters, but now claims the number is much higher without elaborating. He also said he rejected overtures from allies and militia groups in the region that would have added tens of thousands more to his ranks.

A nearly 10-minute-long video released on Tuesday, purportedly shot by a Hezbollah surveillance drone, shows parts of Haifa, a city far from the Israeli-Lebanese border. Nasrallah said in a speech on Wednesday that Hezbollah has more footage – a clear threat that it could reach locations deep in Israel.

Israel’s chief of military staff, Lt. Gen. Hezi Halevi, visited Israeli air defense soldiers near the Lebanese border on Wednesday and said Israel was aware of Hezbollah’s capabilities shown in the film and had solutions to deal with those threats.

“The enemy only knows a fraction of our capabilities and will see them when they need to,” he said.

Since the Gaza war broke out on October 7, Hezbollah, an ally of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, has been fighting Israel almost every day in an effort to withdraw Israeli troops from the troubled Gaza Strip.

Hezbollah’s attacks escalated last month after Israel expanded its offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, and last week an Israeli attack killed senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah. Loeb Sami Abdullah is the most senior militant killed so far in Israel’s war with Hamas.

Also on Tuesday, the Israeli army said it had “approved and verified” plans to launch an attack on Lebanon, although the actual decision to launch such an operation would have to come from the country’s political leadership.

The warnings from both sides followed a visit to the country by President Joe Biden’s senior adviser Amos Hochstein, who met with Lebanese and Israeli officials this week in his latest attempt to de-escalate tensions. Hochstein told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday that it was a “very serious situation” that “urgently requires a diplomatic solution to prevent a larger war.”

Nasrallah said a wider war with Lebanon would have regional ramifications, with Hezbollah attacking any other country in the region that supports Israel, citing the example of Cyprus, which has hosted Israeli troops for training exercises.

Only a ceasefire in Gaza could halt fighting on the Lebanese-Israeli border or attacks on Western and Israeli-related targets by Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Iraqi militias allied to Hezbollah.

Israel views Hezbollah as its most immediate threat, and the two countries fought a 34-day war in 2006 that eventually reached a stalemate. Since then, Hezbollah’s military capabilities have grown significantly, with the United States and Israel estimating that the group and other Lebanese armed factions possess about 150,000 missiles and rockets. Hezbollah has also been working on precision-guided missiles.

Hezbollah said at least four Hezbollah militants were killed in Israeli attacks as Hochstein returned to Israel on Wednesday for a new round of meetings.

Lebanese state media reported attacks along the border and near the coastal city of Tyre, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) away. The Israeli military said two Hezbollah launches damaged several vehicles in northern Israel.

Kamal Mohana, head of the Amer Association, a non-governmental organization that provides medical services in different areas of Lebanon, said the association’s medical center in the town of Shyam was attacked and damaged by Israeli shelling.

Israeli air strikes have killed more than 400 people in Lebanon, mostly Hezbollah and other militants, but also more than 80 civilians and non-combatants. In northern Israel, a Lebanese attack killed 16 soldiers and 11 civilians.

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