Skip to main content

"If a diplomatic solution is not found, Israel will be forced to act in order to remove Hezbollah from the border"

2 min

The Iran-backed Hezbollah signalled on Friday it would escalate attacks on Israel in response to the deaths of 10 Lebanese civilians killed in Israeli attacks this week, while Israel said it would remove Hezbollah from the border if diplomacy failed.

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah appears on a screen as he gives a televised address during a rally commemorating the group's late leaders in Beirut's southern suburbs, Lebanon February 16, 2024. ReutersMohamed Azakir

The Iran-backed Hezbollah signalled on Friday it would escalate attacks on Israel in response to the deaths of 10 Lebanese civilians killed in Israeli attacks this week, while Israel said it would remove Hezbollah from the border if diplomacy failed.

In a televised speech, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Israel would pay a price "in blood", indicating the risk of an intensification of the conflict that has been rumbling across the Lebanese-Israeli border since the Gaza war erupted in October.

Nasrallah accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians, saying Israel could have avoided killing them. The dead included five children.

"The response to the massacre should be continuing resistance work at the front and escalating resistance work at the front," Nasrallah said. "Our women and our children who were killed in these days, the enemy will pay the price of spilling their blood in blood," he said.

Nasrallah said the killings had increased Hezbollah's determination. Hezbollah would increase its "presence, strength, fire, anger" and expand its operations, he said. Israel "must expect that and wait for that".

The Israeli military said it carried out a "precise airstrike" on Lebanon on Wednesday which killed Hezbollah commanders and operatives. It has not commented on civilian deaths. It has previously said it does not target civilians.

In a possible signal that it would be prepared for any escalation, the Israeli military released a statement on Friday which said that its ground forces were "training on terrain that simulates the northern borders in winter weather conditions."

Israel's northern frontier includes Lebanon and Syria.

Hezbollah has been trading fire for more than four months with the Israeli military in support of its Palestinian ally Hamas, which carried out a deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that was met with an Israeli land, air and sea assault on Gaza.

The violence has killed more than 200 people in Lebanon, including more than 170 Hezbollah fighters, as well as around a dozen Israeli troops and five Israeli civilians, as well as uprooting tens of thousands on both sides.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz told the Munich Security Conference that Hezbollah was just a proxy that Iran was manoeuvring as it saw fit and that Israel would not let instability in the north continue endlessly.

"If a diplomatic solution is not found, Israel will be forced to act in order to remove Hezbollah from the border and return our residents to their homes," he said, referring to some 70,000 displaced Israelis.

"In such a case, Lebanon will also pay a heavy price."

France has delivered a written proposal to Beirut and Israel aimed at ending hostilities and settling the disputed Lebanon-Israel frontier, but there are few signs that those efforts will bear fruit in the immediate term.

"Lebanon will be destroyed if we attack. Pressure Hezbollah and Iran," Katz said.

Speaking in Munich earlier in the day, Lebanon's caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, urged calm, but said attacks on civilians needed to end.

"Just two days ago, a family of seven innocent individuals was targeted in South Lebanon. The killing and targeting of innocent children, women, and older adults is a crime against humanity," he said.

(Reporting by Jana Choukeir and Laila Bassam; Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Writing by Adam Makary, Tom Perry and John Irish; Editing by Alison Williams, Nick Macfie and Toby Chopra)

Reporting by Jana Choukeir and Laila Bassam

Related

Iran

Israel's Iran attack carefully calibrated

Israel's apparent strike on Iran after days of prevarication was small and appeared calibrated to dial back risks of a major war, even if the sheer fact it happened at all shattered a taboo of direct attacks that Tehran broke days earlier.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Mena banner 4

To make this website run properly and to improve your experience, we use cookies. For more detailed information, please check our Cookie Policy.

  • Necessary cookies enable core functionality. The website cannot function properly without these cookies, and can only be disabled by changing your browser preferences.