Hezbollah chief says group is not afraid of war with Israel

Gabe Friedman

(JTA) — The leader of Hezbollah said that his group does not want a war with Israel but will take immediate action against any Israeli aggression.

“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,” Hassan Nasrallah said in his first televised speech since his group’s attack on the Israel-Lebanon border that killed two Israel Defense Forces soldiers on Wednesday.

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“We don’t fear war [against Israel] and we don’t hesitate in facing it if it is imposed on us, and we will be victorious, God willing,” Nasrallah continued in his speech on Friday that was made in front of thousands of supporters in Beirut and broadcast live on several Arabic news channels.

Wednesday’s attack was believed to be a retaliation for an alleged Israeli air strike on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights that killed 12 Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general last week. Israel officials did not confirm that they ordered the strike.

Hezbollah had previously sent a message to Israel on Wednesday night requesting that both sides avoid escalating tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border.

However, on Friday, Nasrallah called the alleged Israeli air strike an “assassination” and said, “In Syria, Israel has been backing the extremist groups and shelling regime positions under various excuses.”

He emphasized that all rules of engagement in the conflict with Israel were off.

“Our biggest victory is that Israel feared Hezbollah’s response,” Nasrallah said.