Hezbollah chief accuses US of being 'entirely responsible' for Israel-Hamas war

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivers his first address since the October conflict between Palestinian group Hamas and Israel, from an unspecified location in Lebanon. Photo: Reuters

Beirut: Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Friday accused the United States of being entirely responsible for the Israel-Hamas war in his first speech since the conflict broke out in October. Lebanon's Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israeli forces across the border since its Palestinian ally Hamas in Gaza and Israel went to war on October 7.

Gaza health authorities say at least 9,227 people - many of them women and children - have been killed since Israel started its blitz on the enclave of 2.3 million people in retaliation for the Hamas rampage in southern Israel. Israel says the Iran-backed Hamas killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and took more than 240 hostages in the deadliest day of its 75-year history.

"America is entirely responsible for the ongoing war on Gaza and its people, and Israel is simply a tool of execution. The United States "impedes a ceasefire and the end of the aggression," Nasrallah said in a televised broadcast. 

At the same time, he warned that a wider conflict in the Middle East was a realistic possibility in a speech that was expected to indicate whether his group would wage a full-fledged war against Israel. A formidable military force backed by Iran, Hezbollah has been engaging Israeli forces along the Lebanon-Israel border in the deadliest escalation since it fought a war with Israel in 2006.

A Palestinian is carried away in a blanket following an Israeli air strike on a building in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 3. Photo: AFP

Hezbollah have been escalating day by day, forcing Israel to keep its forces near the Lebanese border instead of the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, Nasrallah said in a televised address.
"What's happening on the border might seem modest but is very important,” he added.

The Hezbollah chief thanked groups in Yemen and Iraq, part of what is known as the "Axis of Resistance". It includes Shi'ite Muslim Iraqi militias, which have been firing at US forces in Syria and Iraq, and Yemen's Houthis, who have joined in the conflict by firing drones at Israel.

An Israeli army artillery howitzer moves at a position near the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel. Photo: AFP

What is Hezbollah, the group backing Hamas against Israel?

Iran's Revolutionary Guards founded Hezbollah in 1982, in the middle of Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war. It was part of Iran's effort to export its 1979 Islamic Revolution around the region and fight Israeli forces after their 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Sharing Tehran's Shi'ite Islamist ideology, Hezbollah recruited Lebanese Shi'ite Muslims.

The group has risen from a shadowy faction to a heavily armed force with major sway over the Lebanese state. The United States, some Western governments and others deem it a terrorist organisation.

Members of Hezbollah carry the coffin of Hezbollah member Abbas Shuman, who was killed in southern Lebanon amidst tension between Israel and Hezbollah, during his funeral in Baalbek, Lebanon on October 23, 2023. Photo: Reuters

While other groups disarmed after Lebanon's civil war, Hezbollah kept its weapons to fight Israeli forces that were occupying the predominantly Shi'ite Muslim south of the country. Years of guerrilla warfare led Israel to withdraw in 2000.

Hezbollah demonstrated its military advances in 2006 during a five-week war with Israel, which erupted after it crossed into Israel, kidnapping two soldiers and killing others.

They fired thousands of rockets into Israel during the conflict, in which 1,200 people were killed in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 158 Israelis were killed, most of them soldiers.

Hezbollah's military power grew after it deployed to Syria, another of Iran's allies in the region, to help President Bashar al-Assad fight mostly Sunni Muslim rebels. Hezbollah boasts weapons including precision rockets and drones, and says it can hit all parts of Israel. In 2021, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the group had 100,000 fighters.

According to reports, Iran gives Hezbollah weapons and money. The United States estimates Iran has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars annually to this group in recent years.

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