Hezbollah chief says group won’t ‘be silent’ after killing of Hamas leader

Hassan Nasrallah offers condolences to Hamas after the killing of its deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri.

The head of Lebanon’s powerful armed group Hezbollah says the killing of the deputy chief of allied Palestinian faction Hamas in Beirut was “a major, dangerous crime about which we cannot be silent”.

In a televised speech on Wednesday, Hassan Nasrallah blamed Israel for the attack and offered his condolences to Hamas for what he called a “flagrant Israeli aggression” that killed Saleh al-Arouri.

Tuesday’s strike hit the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, a Hezbollah stronghold.

Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari did not directly comment on al-Arouri’s killing but said the military was “highly prepared for any scenario” in its aftermath.

But on Wednesday, the chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service vowed that the agency would hunt down every Hamas member involved in the October 7 attack on Israel, no matter where they are.

The comments by David Barnea appeared to be the strongest indication yet it was behind Tuesday’s blast.

It was the first strike to hit Beirut after almost three months of near daily fire between the Israeli military and Hezbollah across the Israel-Lebanon border.

Hezbollah launched rockets across the border beginning on October 8 in support of Hamas, which had carried out a deadly assault into southern Israel the previous day that Israel responded to with a devastating bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip.

Hezbollah is part of the “axis of resistance”, a loose alliance of armed groups with ties to Iran. They include Hamas in Palestine and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Nasrallah asserted Hezbollah’s “quick” action on October 8 and the cross-border shelling since then had prevented a broader bombing campaign by Israel of Lebanon.

He said there would be “no ceilings” and “no rules” to fighting by Hezbollah if Israel launches a war on Lebanon.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Andrea Dessi, an assistant professor of international relations at the American University of Rome, said it does not seem like there’s going to be “a direct escalation in the coming days”.

“However, the threat is there,” Dessi told Al Jazeera.

The reaction will have to come at some point, he said, especially because the “credibility of Hezbollah and Nasrallah is on the line”, given that in the previous speech, he stated that any such killing would be met with a response.

Hezbollah, though, “does not want to assume the responsibility of starting a major war”, he added.

Reporting from Beirut, Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr said Nasrallah’s address was a “delicate balancing act”.

“He talked about the front in southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah is engaged in a low-intensity conflict with the Israeli army along the border. He said that [fighting] will continue.

“He said that if Israel decides to launch a full-scale offensive, then Hezbollah would fight back with its full military capabilities.”

“But Nasrallah also spoke about strategic, national considerations that each of the so-called resistance groups in this ‘axis of resistance’ across the region have to take into account. And in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah knows that Israel can destroy this country,” she said.

“In many ways, his hands are tied. But at the same time, he reiterated that Hezbollah is not afraid of war.”

Nasrallah is set to deliver another televised speech on Friday.

Hamas said al-Arouri would be buried on Thursday in Beirut’s Shatila Palestinian refugee camp.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies