The message from the deputy secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah, Naim Ghassem, is clear: “Prepare for anything.”
The Shiite organization is ready to fight against the arch-enemy Israel on the border in the south. Hundreds of supporters cheer the Shiite leader as he speaks after Friday prayers in a suburb of the Lebanese capital Beirut.
“When the time to act comes, we will take it,” says Ghassem. The crowd waves Palestinian flags and the Hezbollah flag. They chant in chorus: “Freedom for Palestine!”
“Shadow boxing match” between Israel and Hezbollah
Since the terrorist attack by the Palestinian Hamas on Israel, there has been growing concern that the conflict is developing into a conflagration. All eyes are on Hezbollah, which was already involved in a war with Israel in 2006.
The organization is considered a loyal ally of Iran. There have been repeated clashes on the Israeli-Lebanese border since the weekend.
Hundreds of Hamas terrorists entered Israel last Saturday and carried out a massacre in border towns and at a music festival. In total, they killed more than 1,300 Israelis and injured more than 3,000. 150 people were kidnapped by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Experts are still talking about a “shadow boxing fight” between Israel and Hezbollah. The provocations were still within the unspoken rules that both sides agreed on, said expert Makram Rabah of the German Press Agency.
“I’ve been with Hezbollah all my life”
Riad Kahwaji, director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), believes Hezbollah wants to keep Israel in the dark and “keep them uncertain about their next steps.”
At the same time, the Shiite militia is also conducting diversionary maneuvers to challenge the Israeli military in the north and “to show their solidarity with Hamas,” said the expert.
The participants in the Hezbollah rally in Beirut also stand on the side of the Palestinians. “I have been with Hezbollah all my life,” says Ali Kobessi. He is a fighter in the Shiite militia. He applauds the Hezbollah leaders’ speeches with loud cheers.
“I am here for the children in Gaza. A whole nation is being wiped out,” says one of the participants in the rally, adding: “I am Lebanese, but my blood is Palestinian.” She is holding the yellow flag of Hezbollah in her hand.
“Israelis extremely underestimated the capabilities of their opponents”
“We are in a time of victories and not in a time of defeats,” were Ghassem’s words on Friday in Beirut. He wants to say: Hezbollah is ready – also for a tougher confrontation with Israel.
Analyst Kahwaj says: “This war shows that the Israelis have extremely underestimated the capabilities of their opponents in the south.” The Hamas attack is just a small example of what Hezbollah can do in the north. Hezbollah is significantly stronger, has significantly more weapons and a larger front line.
The main difference between Hamas and Hezbollah is that Hezbollah has a significantly more powerful influence that extends deep into the crisis-paralyzed Lebanese state.
Its power is based not only on support from Iran, but also on its own militia, with which it controls primarily the south on the border with Israel, Shiite-inhabited districts of the capital Beirut and the Bekaa Valley in the north of the country . It is the only group that was officially allowed to keep its weapons after the civil war from 1975 to 1990.