Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech on Friday, his first since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, in which he warned of the possibility of a wider conflict in the Middle East. Nasrallah's speech was closely watched to determine whether Hezbollah would engage in a full-fledged war against Israel.
Nasrallah credited the Hamas militant group for launching an operation against Israel on October 7, which he described as "100 percent Palestinian." He claimed that this operation exposed Israel's weakness and caused an "earthquake" within the country. Nasrallah also expressed gratitude to groups in Yemen and Iraq, forming part of the "Axis of Resistance." These groups, including Shia Muslim Iraqi militias and Yemen's Houthis, have engaged in conflict with Israel by firing drones and attacking U.S. forces.
Hezbollah, a powerful military force backed by Iran, has been involved in clashes with Israeli forces along the border, resulting in the deaths of 55 Hezbollah fighters and marking the deadliest escalation since the 2006 war. Nasrallah emphasized the importance of the fighting on the Lebanon-Israel border, stating that it would not be limited to its current scale and warning that all options were on the table.
Both the United States and Israel have cautioned Hezbollah against opening a second front in the ongoing war. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the U.S. stance that a second or third front should not be opened in the conflict involving Lebanon, Hezbollah, and Iran. Israel, for its part, has made it clear that it has no desire for a conflict on its northern border with Lebanon.
The speech by Nasrallah took place amidst renewed clashes between Hezbollah and Israel. Hezbollah claimed to have launched 19 simultaneous strikes on Israeli army positions, using explosive drones for the first time. Israel responded with airstrikes, tank fire, and artillery. The potential for escalated conflict has led to evacuation orders for Israeli communities near the border and preparations for the evacuation of citizens by several Western countries, including Canada.
Nasrallah's speech holds significance as he is considered one of the most prominent figures in the Arab world. His fiery oratory during the 2006 war elevated his profile. While Nasrallah had remained out of the public eye since October 7, other Hezbollah officials have indicated the group's combat readiness. However, no red lines had been set by Hezbollah in the conflict with Israel.
A wider regional war is a growing concern, with the U.S. and Israel trading attacks with Iranian-backed militias across the region. The mutual threats of destruction have prevented Israel and Hezbollah from engaging in war on the Lebanese-Israeli frontier since 2006, with Syria serving as a battleground for their conflict.
Lebanon, already grappling with a devastating financial collapse, is ill-prepared for another war with Israel. Nasrallah's speech coincided with Hezbollah-organized rallies honoring fallen fighters.