The leader of Hezbollah group based in Lebanon has declared that his organization is “fully prepared” to join Hamas in its war against Israel, despite international pressure to stay out of the conflict.
Sheikh Naim Qassem, the deputy chief of Hezbollah, made the announcement at a rally in Beirut on Friday, where hundreds of supporters gathered to express solidarity with Hamas and the Palestinians. They waved Hezbollah and Palestinian flags, chanted “Death to Israel” and burned Israeli effigies.
Qassem said that Hezbollah was not deterred by the calls from major powers, Arab countries and the United Nations to refrain from interfering in the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas, which erupted last Saturday after Hamas launched a massive rocket attack on Israeli cities.
“The behind-the-scenes calls with us by great powers, Arab countries, envoys of the United Nations, directly and indirectly, telling us not to interfere will have no effect,” Qassem said. “Hezbollah knows its duties perfectly well. We are prepared and ready, fully ready, and we are following developments moment by moment.”
He added that Hezbollah would act according to its own plan and would not reveal its intentions in advance. “The question being asked, which everyone is waiting for, is what Hezbollah will do and what will its contribution be? We will contribute to the confrontation within our plan — when the time comes for any action, we will carry it out.”
Hezbollah’s statement came as Israel warned residents in the north of a possible ground incursion over the Lebanese border, as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) continued to strike Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. The IDF said it had destroyed more than 1,000 Hamas sites, including rocket launchers, tunnels, command centers and weapons factories.
Hamas, meanwhile, claimed to have fired more than 3,000 rockets at Israel since Saturday.
The conflict has drawn international condemnation and calls for an immediate ceasefire.
Hezbollah’s involvement in the conflict would pose a serious challenge for Israel, as the group is considered one of the most powerful and well-armed non-state actors in the Middle East. Hezbollah has fought several wars with Israel in the past, most notably in 2006, when it launched thousands of rockets into northern Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers.
Hezbollah is also believed to have a stockpile of more than 100,000 rockets and missiles that can reach any part of Israel. The group is also backed by Iran, which has vowed to support Hamas and other Palestinian factions against Israel.
Some analysts have warned that Hezbollah’s entry into the war would be a “game changer” that could escalate the violence and trigger a regional conflagration.