Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group said it was prepared to act against Israel over its war in Gaza after its sponsor, Iran, warned the continued blockade of the Palestinian enclave could open up a new front in the conflict.
(Bloomberg) — Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group said it was prepared to act against Israel over its war in Gaza after its sponsor, Iran, warned the continued blockade of the Palestinian enclave could open up a new front in the conflict.
“We are fully prepared — when the time comes — for any action that we will carry out,” Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qasem said, according to the group’s Al Manar TV station.
Israel is preparing for a possible ground offensive in Gaza after last weekend’s attacks by Palestinian militant group Hamas. Iran is a major supporter of Hamas but has repeatedly denied involvement in the unprecedented assault that killed more than 1,200 people, many of them civilians.
However, Friday’s comments from Hezbollah and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian signal a possible expansion in the war, potentially to Israel’s febrile northern border with Lebanon.
Amirabdollahian held talks in the Lebanese capital Beirut with Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, which fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006.
The two discussed “everyone’s responsibilities and the positions that need to be taken with regards to these historical events and developments,” according to a Hezbollah statement.
Amirabdollahian later also met with senior officials from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian militant group, a ministry statement said.
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“Of course in the case of the continuation of war crimes and the humanitarian blockade of Gaza and Palestine every possibility and decision by the other currents of the resistance is possible,” Amirabdollahian told reporters in Beirut when asked about the possibility of a second front.
He cited the killing of civilians and cutting off of electricity in Gaza as examples of alleged war crimes.
Hezbollah, one of the Middle East’s most powerful militias, has exchanged fire with Israeli troops on the border with Lebanon over the past few days but the situation hasn’t escalated into sustained fighting.
Read more: Why Hezbollah Is a Wild Card in New Mideast Fighting: QuickTake
Its battle-hardened fighters have in recent years seen extensive combat in Syria, where they fought on the side of President Bashar al-Assad. Hezbollah has an arsenal of missiles that can reach deep into Israel.
Iran describes the network of armed anti-Israel groups that it supports across the region, including Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, as the “axis of resistance” against Israeli occupation.
“The continuation of the war crimes against Palestine and Gaza will definitely be met with reactions in other axes in the region,” Amirabdollahian said.
–With assistance from Dana Khraiche.
(Adds meetings with officials from Hamas, Islamic Jihad.)
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