In a highly anticipated address, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s formidable Hezbollah militia, declared that his organization is currently engaged in cross-border confrontations with Israel and warned of potential “realistic escalation.” While Nasrallah stopped short of formally announcing Hezbollah’s full participation in the Israel-Hamas conflict, he emphasized that the fighting along the Lebanon-Israel border would not remain confined to the scale seen thus far.
Despite the stern warnings from the United States, Israel’s staunch supporter, Nasrallah remains undeterred, declaring that the deployment of US warships to the Mediterranean “will not scare us.” A spokesperson from the US National Security Council emphasized that Hezbollah, along with other state and non-state actors, should not exploit the ongoing conflict.
Speaking to a massive gathering in Beirut’s Ashura Square, Nasrallah lauded the Hamas attack in southern Israel four weeks ago, a strike that resulted in over 1,400 casualties. He attributed the success of this attack solely to Palestinian planning and execution, distancing Hezbollah from any involvement.
Nasrallah indicated that Hezbollah had “joined the battle” on October 8, expressing gratitude to various groups, including those in Yemen and Iraq, aligned with the “Axis of Resistance.” This alliance encompasses Shia Muslim Iraqi militias, which have been engaging US forces in Syria and Iraq, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, known for launching drones at Israel.
Nasrallah conveyed that Hezbollah’s operations have been intensifying day by day, even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioned Hezbollah against testing Israel, warning of severe consequences. Nasrallah’s intentions are clear: to keep Israeli troops occupied on the northern border, potentially diverting them from the Gaza front. He emphasized that further escalation in the north is a “realistic possibility.”
Nasrallah’s speech held great significance throughout the region, as it signaled the potential for the Israel-Hamas conflict to escalate into a regional war. Daily exchanges along Israel’s northern border, involving Israel, Hezbollah, and other factions in southern Lebanon, have raised the stakes.
Since the conflict’s onset, Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas, has carefully managed its actions to engage Israel’s military on the Lebanese border while avoiding an all-out war.
According to Israeli military reports, seven soldiers and one civilian have been killed on the northern border as of Friday. On the Lebanese side of the border, over 50 Hezbollah fighters and ten militants affiliated with other groups, as well as ten civilians, including a Reuters journalist, have lost their lives.
Hezbollah, backed by Iran, is widely regarded as Israel’s most immediate and serious threat. It is estimated that Hezbollah possesses around 150,000 rockets and missiles pointed at Israel, along with drones, surface-to-air missiles, and surface-to-sea missiles.
A full-blown conflict would entail considerable costs for Hezbollah, which fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006 that concluded without a clear victor but left significant destruction in its wake. The devastation resulted in extensive damage to southern Lebanon, the eastern Bekaa Valley, and southern suburbs of Beirut.
In the event of a new all-out war, hundreds of thousands of Hezbollah supporters would likely be displaced, exacerbating the dire economic crisis currently afflicting Lebanon.
Tensions have been escalating in northern Israel’s border communities in the lead-up to Nasrallah’s address, with widespread evacuations having already taken place in recent weeks. In Kfar Giladi, a kibbutz situated just 2 kilometers from the Lebanese border, a sign at the entrance to the bomb shelter stated “No entry to Radwan,” in reference to Hezbollah’s special commando force. As uncertainty looms, residents remain on high alert.