Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Tuesday that his group is unafraid and ready for any war with Israel, even though it had sent hundreds of fighters to support President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria.
“You should close all of your airports and your ports, because there is no place... on the land of occupied Palestine that the resistance’s rockets cannot reach,” the Lebanese Daily Star quoted Nasrallah as saying via video link to tens of thousands of supporters, who flocked to the streets of Beirut’s southern suburbs to commemorate the annual Shi’ite Ashoura rituals. “Anything you can think of, you Zionists, count it in your calculations.”
Last week IDF Maj-Gen. Yair Golan, outgoing OC Northern Command, said in any future war, Hezbollah will be able to shut down Ben-Gurion Airport and Haifa sea port with its large-scale projectile arsenal.
Israel, Nasrallah said, “imagined that the developments in the region, particularly in Syria, will weaken the resistance... and would distract it from preparations [for a future war] and would drain it,” he said.
But, Nasrallah declared, “I tell you today that the resistance is stronger than before and is more developed and has more experience.”
The Hezbollah leader said that deterrence was behind Israel’s decision not to go to war against his group.
“The resistance in Lebanon has not shut its eye for one second on the border with occupied Palestine,” and is “in its highest forms of readiness, and that is why the Israelis know that going to war will be very costly,” he said.
A roadside bomb Hezbollah planted last month wounded two IDF soldiers. Israel responded by firing artillery shells into southern Lebanon.
Referring to current tensions over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Nasrallah said there was “a real and serious danger” facing al-Aksa Mosque.
“And this is the responsibility of all the Muslims worldwide, not just the residents of Jerusalem alone or the people of Palestine alone or the Arabs alone,” he said. “It would be the ultimate catastrophe and shame” for all Muslims if “one of their holiest sites and blessed mosques” were “desecrated or Judaized or destroyed.”
Regarding the fighting in Syria and Iraq, he said Hezbollah was determined to battle ultra-hardline Sunnis there, and predicted they would be defeated across the region.
“For months, the militants have been fighting to regain control over a single village from the Syrian army and its allies, but they’re failing,” the Daily Star quoted Nasrallah as saying, referring to the Qalamoun region, near the Lebanese border.
“These takfiris have no future...
[they] will be defeated in all regions, all countries... and we will have the honor of being among those who took part in defeating them,” he told the crowd, to chants of “We sacrifice our souls for you, Nasrallah.”
“Takfiri” is a term for a hardline Sunni who sees other Muslims as infidels, often as a justification for fighting or killing them. The Islamic State group, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria, is one of the groups to which Nasrallah was referring.
Dressed in black, people of all ages marched through the streets of the Hezbollah’s stronghold, beating their chests and chanting, “We sacrifice our souls for you, Hussein” – a reference to the prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Hussein, who was killed in a battle 1,300 years ago against the army of Umayyad Caliph Yizid. Many Shi’ites compare the battle to the current fight against Islamic State and other hardline Sunni groups, saying they came from the same school.
Security for Ashoura in Lebanon this year is especially tight, after Sunni rebels from Syria attacked areas in northern Lebanon and took soldiers hostage.
Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria has stirred tensions in the religiously and ethnically mixed Lebanon, which has a delicate power-sharing system among the sects. The group lost some popularity in the Arab world when it entered the Syria crisis.
It said its fighters were entering the conflict to defend Shi’ite shrines and later said it was fighting the jihadists to deter them from coming into Lebanon.