Supporters of Iranian-backed Hezbollah raise their fists and cheer as leader Hassan Nasrallah gives a speech via a video link during a rally in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Nov. 3, 2023.
In his first speech since Israel declared war on Hamas after the Gaza terror group’s October 7 slaughter of Israelis, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Friday lobbed threats at the Jewish state and expressed solidarity with the Palestinians and their “martyrs.” But he made no announcement of explicit plans to broaden his Lebanese terror group’s conflict with Israel, as some had feared he would.
“Some claim Hezbollah is about to join the fray. I tell you: We have been engaged in this battle since October 8,” he said.
“Some would like Hezbollah to engage in an all-out war, but I can tell you: What is happening now along the Israeli-Lebanese border is significant, and it is not the end.”
Nasrallah cautioned Israel against launching a preemptive offensive: “I tell the Israelis, if you are considering carrying out a preemptive attack against Lebanon, it will be the most foolish mistake you make in your entire existence.”
As he spoke, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a threat of his own, warning Israel’s “enemies in the north” not to make the costly mistake of escalating the war. “You cannot imagine how much this will cost you.”
And US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, visiting Israel and also speaking at the same time as Nasrallah, also issued a warning. “With regard to Lebanon, with regard to Hizballah, with regard to Iran, we have been very clear from the outset that we are determined that there not be a second or third front opened in this conflict. President Biden said on day one to anyone thinking of opening a second front, taking advantage of the situation, don’t. And we’ve backed up those words … with practical deeds.”
In Israel and throughout the region, Nasrallah’s speech, which Hezbollah announced days in advance and repeatedly played up, had been anticipated and feared as potentially heralding a declaration of war, or of some ultimatum. But the terror chief did not go so far, and in some instances appeared to even distance Hezbollah from the conflict.
He said he had not known in advance about Hamas’s October 7 plans, and neither had Iran, indicating that Hezbollah was not integral to the onslaught.
Since the outbreak of war, the Iran-backed Hezbollah has conducted and overseen daily assaults on Israel’s northern border from Lebanon, but has stopped short of launching a full-scale campaign against the country. Israel, too, has attempted to walk a fine line, responding with significant firepower to attacks and attempted attacks, while trying to avoid actions that would escalate the conflict as it seeks to keep its focus on Gaza.
On the Lebanese side of the border, some 70 people have been killed — including at least 56 Hezbollah members, eight Palestinian terrorists, a number of civilians and one Reuters journalist. On the Israeli side, six IDF soldiers and one civilian have been killed in attacks by Hezbollah and Palestinian gunmen.
In his speech, Nasrallah boasted that Hezbollah’s military actions on the border had drawn IDF forces away from the war against Hamas.
“What we have done since October 8 is unprecedented in terms of our fighting strategy. Every day, we have been targeting Israeli soldiers, tanks, drones and sensors, the eyes and ears of Israel. We have been engaged in a true battle. The amount of our martyrs — 57 — testifies to this,” he said.
“Our operations on the border have forced the IDF to divert forces, weapons and equipment from Gaza and the West Bank to the Lebanese front. One-third of the IDF is now amassed on our border,” he claimed.
“A victory for Gaza against Israel will not be a victory for Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood, it will be first and foremost a patriotic victory for Palestinians, but also for Egypt, Jordan, Syria and also Lebanon. It is therefore our duty to support Hamas in Gaza.”
And he said: “The only factor that will affect our position is the progression of the war. I tell Israel: do not go any further. Many civilians have already died. I promise you: A civilian for a civilian.”
Hamas terrorists launched an unprecedented October 7 onslaught inside Israel by bursting through the Gaza border, killing over 1,400 people — most of them civilians, slaughtered in their homes — and abducting over 240 to Gaza. Israel responded by launching and all-out war against Hamas, recruiting over 300,000 reservists as it pounds Gaza terror targets and launching a ground operation over the past week that is encircling Gaza City — Hamas’s main base of operations.
Israel has also diverted massive forces to the north even as it has done the same in the south, to prepare for the possibility of Hezbollah trying to replicate Hamas’s atrocities in southern communities. It has also ordered the evacuation of border communities to protect residents.
But Nasrallah also signaled that the war was mainly a concern of Hamas, saying the Lebanese terror group had known nothing about the assault ahead of time.
“The October 7 operation was planned in total secrecy. Even other Palestinian factions were not privy to it, let alone resistance movements abroad,” Nasrallah said.
“The international community keeps bringing up Iran and its military plans, but the October 7 attack was a 100% Palestinian operation, planned and executed by Palestinians for the Palestinian cause, it has no relation at all to any international or regional issues.”
Nasrallah made the false claim that Israeli civilians in Gaza border communities were killed on October 7 by Israeli forces who were “acting insanely as they were caught by surprise and were ‘drunk’” — and not by Hamas. There is no evidence to support such claims, and overwhelming visual and eyewitness evidence of pre-planned, wanton Hamas atrocities against civilians.
“Israel falsely claimed Hamas beheaded babies, but failed to produce any evidence,” he said, himself speaking falsely, “whereas the whole world has seen images of Palestinian children bombed in Gaza.”
Nasrallah said one of Israel’s chief mistakes was “setting lofty goals that it cannot achieve,” and pointed out that “in 2006 [Israel] set the goal of crushing the resistance in Lebanon and recovering the [bodies of] two prisoners without negotiations and exchanges. They did not manage over 33 days, and today in Gaza the situation is the same.
“Israel has never been able to bring back hostages without negotiations,” Nasrallah said.
The Hezbollah chief referenced his own past statements that the Israeli nation was as weak and as fleeting as a spider’s web, saying this time that it was even “weaker” than that.
“It needs American and Western support,” he asserted. “Otherwise, why would the US navy send an aircraft carrier shortly after the October 7 attack? Why else would Biden visit Israel, alongside numerous American government secretaries, the military top brass and European leaders?”
For its support, he said, the US “must be held accountable and pay the price for the crimes perpetrated by Israel in Gaza, hence resistance movements have attacked and will continue to attack American forces in Iraq and Syria.”
Nasrallah said Hezbollah was not intimidated by American threats and by US forces deployed to the region.
“Since the outbreak of the war, the US has threatened to bomb us in Lebanon from its military ships in the Mediterranean. We are prepared for whatever scenario,” he warned. “If an all-out war breaks out, you Americans will pay with your ships, your aircraft, and your soldiers.
The US in response warned Hezbollah not to “take advantage” of the war.
“We and our partners have been clear: Hezbollah and other actors — state or non-state — should not try to take advantage of the ongoing conflict,” a spokesperson from the National Security Council said.
Nasrallah said: “We still need time but we will win, the same way we won in 2006, the same way the resistance has achieved results in the West Bank.”
Supporters of Iranian-backed Hezbollah raise their fists and cheer as leader Hassan Nasrallah appears via a video link during a rally in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Nov. 3, 2023.