Hezbollah leader says his group must retaliate for alleged Israeli attack in Beirut

BEIRUT –

The leader of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah said Friday that his group must retaliate after an alleged Israeli attack that hit a Beirut neighborhood this week, killing a senior Hamas official, or else all of Lebanon would be vulnerable to attack. Israeli.

Hassan Nasrallah appeared to be advocating a response to the Lebanese public, even at the risk of escalating fighting between Hezbollah and Israel. But he gave no indication of how or when the militants would act.

The attack that killed Hamas deputy political leader Saleh Arouri threatened months of U.S. efforts to prevent the war in Gaza from turning into a regional conflict.

Nasrallah said it was Israel’s first attack on the Lebanese capital since 2006.

“We cannot remain silent in the face of a breach of this severity,” he said, “because this means that all of our people will be exposed (to attacks). All of our cities, towns and public figures will be exposed.”

The repercussions of silence are “far greater” than the risks of retaliation, he added.

Tensions are rising on multiple fronts as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in the region. Iraqis are furious after a US airstrike killed a militia leader in Baghdad. At the same time, the United States is struggling to deter attacks by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels on Red Sea commercial shipping.

In Gaza, Israel is taking steps to reduce its military assault in the territory’s north and continues its strong offensive in the south, vowing to crush Hamas. In the south, most of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians are being squeezed into smaller areas in a humanitarian disaster, while continuing to be targeted by Israeli airstrikes.

Since the start of the Gaza war, Hezbollah has fired rockets and missiles into northern Israel, provoking a return bombardment from Israel in almost daily cross-border exchanges. After Tuesday’s attack in Beirut, the Lebanon-Israel front appeared to be at a critical juncture, with the potential to veer toward all-out war.

On Friday, Israeli planes, tanks and artillery attacked several areas of Lebanon after rockets and missiles were fired toward Israel, the military said.

But Hezbollah has refrained from a dramatic escalation, fearful of a repeat of the 2006 war between the two sides, in which Israeli bombing caused widespread destruction in Lebanon.

Nasrallah said Friday that the details of Hezbollah’s response “will be decided on the battlefield.” He did not give further details.

The Beirut attack is not the only thing that threatens a broader fight between Israel and Lebanon.

Israeli officials have threatened further military action against Hezbollah unless it withdraws its fighters from Lebanese territory near their shared border.

Israel says a withdrawal, called for in a 2006 U.N. truce but never implemented, is necessary to stop the bombing and allow tens of thousands of Israelis to return to their homes they evacuated near the border.

Nasrallah boasted about the evacuations and said that after Israel forced Lebanese to flee in past conflicts, Hezbollah had now done the same to Israelis, putting political pressure on the government.

Hezbollah’s cross-border attacks are aimed at confronting Israeli forces outside Gaza, Nasrallah said, and the only way to stop them is to “stop the aggression on Gaza.”

Israel says it aims to destroy Hamas’s military capabilities and remove it from power in Gaza after the militants’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, in which they killed about 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and kidnapped about 250 more. .

The army’s top spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said Friday that the military plans an investigation into failures related to the Hamas attack, which drew sharp criticism of military, intelligence and political leaders for being caught off guard. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that the government must focus on the war first and answer questions later.

Israel’s attack on Gaza has killed more than 22,600 people, more than two-thirds of them women and children, according to the territory’s Health Ministry. The ministry’s count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

Much of northern Gaza – the most urbanized part of the small territory – has been devastated by bombing and fighting. Most of its population has fled south, joining its residents who have also largely been driven from their homes. The risk of famine is increasing by the day, according to the UN humanitarian office, known by the acronym OCHA.

The ground offensive threatens to cause further destruction in the south, particularly in the main battleground city of Khan Younis.

Images broadcast by Al Jazeera TV showed the devastation in the center of Khan Younis. No building in the city’s central Sunneya Square has been left intact. Some structures have been razed, while others have been partially destroyed or burned.

Almost every day this week, attacks have occurred in and around Khan Younis’ Al Amal hospital and a hospital run by the Palestinian Red Crescent, killing dozens of people, OCHA said.

Martin Griffiths, the U.N. humanitarian chief, said in a statement Friday that the humanitarian community faces an “impossible mission” to support more than 2 million people in Gaza as aid workers die, communications outages continue, They damage roads and shoot convoys of trucks carrying vital supplies. The handful of partially functioning Gaza hospitals are overwhelmed and infectious diseases are spreading, he said.

Israeli bombing continued throughout the territory. At least 13 people were killed when an apartment building was leveled in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, hospital officials said.

In Rafah, on the southern edge of Gaza, family and friends mourned the bodies of six people who were killed in an attack on a house overnight, including three children.

Sohad al-Derbashi, whose sister was killed in the attack, said the homeowner had evacuated, fearing attack as he works as a civil servant in the Hamas-led Gaza administration, like thousands of others in the territory. When he came to visit the house last night, the strike occurred, he said. His sister, who lived on the floor below, was devastated.

“They were civilians, innocent people, with no connection to anything. Even the target who was with Hamas was a public employee. What did he do wrong?” said el-Derbashi.

——

Shurafa reported from Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, and Jobain from Rafah, Gaza Strip. Associated Press writers Abby Sewell in Beirut and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment