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Hezbollah leader praises Hamas attack, says all options against Israel ‘on the table’

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, speaking for the first time since the Israel-Hamas war erupted, warned on Friday that a wider conflict in the Middle East was a realistic possibility in a speech that was expected to indicate whether his group would wage a full-fledged war against Israel.

As Hassan Nasrallah spoke for the 1st time since Oct. 7, U.S. repeated its warning to Hezbollah

A bearded, bespectacled man in an head covering is shown projected on a screen in a public space with people raising fists in front of the screen.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, speaking for the first time since the Israel-Hamas war erupted, warned on Friday that a wider conflict in the Middle East was a realistic possibility in a speech that was expected to indicate whether his group would wage a full-fledged war against Israel.

Nasrallah said that the operation launched by the Hamas militant group against Israel on Oct. 7 — which led to the killing of about 1,400 people, nearly all civilians — was "100 per cent Palestinian." He said the Hamas operation led to an "earthquake" in Israel and that it exposed the country's weakness.

A formidable military force backed by Iran, Hezbollah has been engaging Israeli forces along the border, where 55 of its fighters have been killed in the deadliest escalation since it fought a war with Israel in 2006.

"What's happening on the border might seem modest but is very important," said Nasrallah. He said the fighting on the Lebanon-Israel border would "not be limited" to the scale seen up until now and he warned that all options were "on the table."

LISTEN | What is Hezbollah?

Front Burner20:15What is Hezbollah?

Featured VideoAs Israel’s ground war in Gaza escalates, there’s another conflict threatening to spill over. Israel and Hezbollah continue to exchange fire on the Lebanon border, stoking fears that a second front may open up. What is Hezbollah? Why does it present a growing threat to Israel? How could an escalating conflict between the two could spark a wider regional war? Journalist Rebecca Collard in Beirut explains. For transcripts of Front Burner, please visit: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/frontburner/transcripts Transcripts of each episode will be made available by the next workday.

Nasrallah thanked groups in Yemen and Iraq, part of what is known as the "Axis of Resistance." It includes Shia Muslim Iraqi militias which have been firing at U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq, and Yemen's Houthis, who have joined in the conflict by firing drones at Israel.

Nasrallah blamed the United States for the war in Gaza and the high civilian death toll, and said that a de-escalation in the besieged enclave was vital to prevent regional war.

Hamas-run health authorities say at least 9,227 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its assault on the enclave of 2.3 million people.

The militant leader, referring to new American deployments in the region including naval warships, said, "your fleets in the Mediterranean … will not scare us."

Blinken repeats U.S. warning

Both the U.S. and Israel have warned Hezbollah against opening a second front in the war.

"With regard to Lebanon, with regard to Hezbollah, with regard to Iran — we have been very clear from the outset that we are determined that there not be a second or third front opened in this conflict," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv in response to a question about whether the U.S. would be willing to use its firepower in the region on targets in Lebanon and Iran.

WATCH l U.S. tells Iranian proxies to stay out:

U.S. secretary of state warns Iran 'proxies,' like Hezbollah

17 hours ago

Duration 0:37

Featured VideoAntony Blinken urges militia groups to stay out of Israel-Hamas conflict, adding U.S. will respond to attacks on its personnel.

The Pentagon has described what it characterizes as an increase in attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militia groups that began shortly after Oct. 7, leading to non-fatal injuries. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah are all backed by Tehran.

"We will do what is necessary to deter and respond to any attacks," Blinken said.

Israel has said it has no interest in a conflict on its northern frontier with Lebanon.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said this month that Israel would bring counterstrikes of "unimaginable" magnitude that would wreak devastation upon Lebanon should Hezbollah declare war on Israel.

Renewed clashes this month

On the eve of the speech, Hezbollah mounted what appeared to be its biggest attack yet in more than three weeks of fighting, saying it launched 19 simultaneous strikes on Israeli army positions and using explosive drones for the first time.

Israel responded with airstrikes along with tank and artillery fire as the fighting on the border escalated. Some Israeli communities near that border have been subject to evacuation orders, while several Western countries including Canada have prepared their citizens living in Lebanon to be prepared to leave due to the potential for escalated conflict.

Wearing the black turban of a sayyed, or a descendent of the Prophet Mohammad, and Shia clerical robes, Nasrallah is one of the most prominent figures in the Arab world.

Recognized even by critics as a skilled orator, his speeches have long been followed closely by friend and foe alike. He is deemed a terrorist by adversaries including the United States.

His fiery speeches during the 2006 war elevated his profile, including one in which he announced Hezbollah had struck an Israeli naval vessel with an anti-ship missile, urging viewers to "look to the sea."

While Nasrallah had stayed out of the public eye since Oct. 7, other Hezbollah officials have indicated the group's combat readiness. But they had not set any red lines in the conflict with Israel.

WATCH l Washington, Arab nations have interest in preventing regional war:

Israel ground operation sparks fear of regional spillover

5 days ago

Duration 2:00

Featured VideoAs a ground operation ramps up in Gaza, the U.S. and Israel are trading attacks with Iran-backed militias across the region. And while there’s little appetite for widening the war, no one is backing down.

Mutual threats of destruction have deterred Israel and Hezbollah from waging war across the Lebanese-Israeli frontier since 2006. Syria has meanwhile served as an arena for their conflict.

Sources familiar with Hezbollah's thinking have told Reuters the group's attacks so far have been measured to avoid a big escalation, while keeping Israeli forces busy at the border.

Large numbers of men are shown marching, holding signs and flags, with some of the people appearing to be yelling.

Lebanon can ill-afford another war with Israel. Many Lebanese are still reeling from the impact of a catastrophic financial collapse four years ago.

Nasrallah's speech coincided with rallies called by Hezbollah to honour fallen fighters.

With files from CBC News and the Associated Press

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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