Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters during a rare public appearance in Beirut, November 3.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hezbollah on Friday confirmed Israeli suspicions that it was establishing a greater military presence near the Syrian-Israeli frontier on the Golan Heights.
The Shi'ite group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, gave a televised address in Lebanon in which he extolled the "fusion of Lebanese-Iranian blood on Syrian territory."
The speech commemorated the deaths of six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general killed by an Israeli air strike in Syria on Jan. 18. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah retaliated on Wednesday with a rocket attack that killed two Israeli soldiers on the frontier with Lebanon.
Nasrallah's remarks reaffirmed the Hezbollah-Iranian effort to solidify another front in the struggle against its nemesis, Israel.
The Hezbollah secretary-general's remarks were reported by the Beirut-based English language newspaper The Daily Star
The Israel-Lebanon frontier, where two Israeli soldiers and a Spanish peacekeeper were killed in an exchange of fire between Hezbollah and Israel, appeared quiet on Friday.
The Israeli soldiers were killed when Hezbollah fired five missiles at a convoy of Israeli military vehicles. The attack appeared to be in retaliation for a January 18 Israeli air strike in southern Syria that killed several Hezbollah members and an Iranian general.
The peacekeeper in southern Lebanon was killed as Israel responded with air strikes and artillery fire, a UN spokesman and Spanish officials said.
Nasrallah said that the Hezbollah attack on Mt. Dov was a tit-for-tat response to the attack on the convoy earlier this month.
“They killed us in broad daylight, we kill them in broad daylight,” he said. "They hit two of our vehicles, we hit two of their vehicles."
The Hezbollah chief lambasted what he called the Israeli leadership's "foolishness" for putting their country at risk with the attack on the Hezbollah-Iranian convoy.
Israel had “planned, calculated and took a premeditated decision to assassinate” the Hezbollah and Iranian officers, though he denied Israeli claims that those targeted, among them Jihad Mughniyeh, were planning an attack on Israel.
The leader of Hezbollah said his group did not want war with Israel but was ready for one and had the right to respond to Israeli "aggression" in any time and place.
"We do not want a war but we are not afraid of it and we must distinguish between the two and the Israelis must also understand this very well," he said.
He said the group had been ready for all possibilities ahead of the retaliatory attack, one of the most serious clashes since the two sides fought a war in 2006. They have appeared to back away from further escalation since the incident.
Addressing a hall full of supporters via video link, Nasrallah said his group no longer had rules of engagement in the conflict with Israel and would hold it responsible for the assassination of any Hezbollah leaders or fighters.
"We have the right to respond in any place and at any time and in the way we see as appropriate," Nasrallah said in the speech, which was broadcast live on Arabic news channels and greeted by heavy celebratory gunfire in Beirut.
Attendees included visiting Iranian official Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy committee. He was shown with tears in his eyes as Nasrallah spoke about the men killed in the Jan. 18 Israeli helicopter attack in the Syrian Golan Heights.
Nasrallah called the attack "an assassination crime".
The Iranian general killed, Mohammad Allahdadi, had been a senior figure in Tehran's military effort to support the Syrian government in its battle against insurgents trying to topple President Bashar Assad.
One of the top figures in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Qassem Soleimani, visited the grave of Jihad Mughniyeh this month, a Lebanese source said.
A picture of Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, praying at Mughniyeh's grave was broadcast by Lebanese television channel Al-Mayadeen. Soleimani had become a father-figure to Jihad Mughniyeh after his father's death, the source said. Soleimani also met Nasrallah during his short visit to Beirut.