Hezbollah ‘ready’ for an all-out war with Israel, deputy head says

Sheikh Naim Qassem tells Al Jazeera that Hezbollah is not seeking to widen its conflict with Israel but ‘will not allow Israel to secure any victories’.

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Aita al Shaab
Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli air strike on the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab near the border with Israel [Kawnat Haju/AFP]

The Lebanese armed group Hezbollah is not seeking to widen its conflict with Israel but is ready to fight any war imposed on it, its deputy leader said, as hostilities across the Lebanese-Israeli border continue to flare.

Sheikh Naim Qassem, the Lebanese group’s deputy chief, said Hezbollah is “ready for the battle and will not allow Israel to secure any victories”.

“Any Israeli expansion of the war on Lebanon will be met with devastation, destruction and displacement in Israel,” he added.

“If Israel wants to fight an all-out war, we are ready for it.”

Iran-aligned Hezbollah and Israel have been exchanging fire for the past eight months in parallel with Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza, raising concerns that an even wider conflict could break out between the heavily armed adversaries.

The Lebanese front, Qassem said, is permanently linked to Gaza, echoing similar sentiments expressed by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who has repeatedly described the group’s support for Gaza as “final”.

The cross-border violence, which has oscillated for months, escalated in recent days. Hezbollah announced on Tuesday that it had launched a squadron of one-way attack drones at an Israeli military barracks for a second consecutive day, calling it a response to a deadly Israeli attack on Lebanon.

Meanwhile, sirens sounded in northern Israel.

‘Not a sustainable reality’

The hostilities have been the worst between Israel and Hezbollah since they went to war in 2006, and tens of thousands of people on both sides of the border have been forced to flee their homes.

Israel’s war cabinet is due to meet later on Tuesday – mainly to discuss the northern front, an Israeli official said.

Israeli government spokesperson David Mencer on Tuesday said the fighting in the north was “not a sustainable reality”.

He said Israel was committed to ensuring the security of tens of thousands of Israelis who had been evacuated from the area and to ensuring they return home.

“It is up to Hezbollah to decide if this can be accomplished by diplomatic means or by force,” he said. “We are defending this country and no one should be surprised by our response.”

Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to US President Joe Biden at the heart of diplomatic efforts seeking de-escalation, said last week that a land border agreement between Israel and Lebanon implemented in phases could dampen the conflict.

Israel has gone to war several times in Lebanon.

Education Minister Yoav Kisch, a member of the right-wing and ruling Likud Party who is not part of Israel’s war cabinet, told Israeli Army Radio on Monday that Israel “must go to war to drive Hezbollah … beyond the Litani” river, which meets the Mediterranean Sea near the Lebanese city of Tyre, 19km (12 miles) from the border.

Israeli strikes have killed some 300 members of Hezbollah since October 7, and around 80 civilians. Attacks from Lebanon on Israel have killed 18 Israeli soldiers and 10 civilians, the Israeli military says.

Rockets fired from Lebanon set off wildfires across swathes of northern Israel on Monday.

Hezbollah said on Monday that it launched a squadron of drones against an Israeli target in response to Israel’s killing of a Hezbollah member. While Hezbollah has used drones in the conflict, it marked the first time it had declared launching a squadron of them.

The group said Tuesday’s drone launch had been in response to what it described as an Israeli assassination in the border town of Naqoura.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies