BEIRUT: Hezbollah is ready to respond to Israel at any time and in any place, party chief Hasan Nasrallah underlined in a fiery speech Friday, two days after its troops ambushed an Israeli military convoy, killing two soldiers.
“Don't try us again,” Nasrallah warned in a televised speech during a Hezbollah ceremony commemorating the deaths of six party fighters and an Iranian commander killed in a Jan. 18 Israeli airstrike on the Golan Heights town of Qunaitra.
“We don't want war but we don't fear it,” he declared. “The resistance in Lebanon is not concerned with rules of engagement. It is our legitimate and legal right to fight aggression, wherever and whenever it may occur."
Addressing the Israeli people, Nasrallah said: “If the Israeli thinks that the resistance fears war, I tell them today in the commemoration of the Qunaitra martyrs and after the Shebaa revenge attack, that we don't fear war and we are not reluctant to engage in it if it is imposed on us.”
Automatic weapons could be heard blazing in parts of Beirut before and after the roughly 90-minute speech, during which Nasrallah revealed that the Wednesday ambush against an Israeli military convoy was planned to resemble Israel’s attack on a Hezbollah convoy 10 days earlier.
“They killed us in broad daylight, we killed them in broad daylight... They hit two of our vehicles, we hit two of their vehicles," he noted.
“As for the casualties, we’ll have to wait and see,” he added. Six Hezbollah members and an Iranian commander were killed in the Israeli strike. Israel has acknowledged that at least two of its soldiers were killed in Hezbollah’s retaliation, but many speculate the casualty toll to be higher.
The main difference between the two attacks was that Israel did not immediately acknowledge that its soldiers were targeted, while Hezbollah announced Israel’s attack in Qunaitra moments after the strike, he said.
Nasrallah said that threats by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against the individuals who carried out the attack in the Shebaa Farms indicates that he is evading military confrontation and is seeking to track them down to assassinate them.
But if any of Hezbollah’s cadre or youth are killed, Hezbollah will respond at any place and during any time it sees fit, he added.
Israelis have discovered over the past few days that their political and military leaders are amateurs, Nasrallah added, pointing to Israel’s upcoming elections. The “foolishness” of this leadership has risked great dangers for Israel, he added.
He began his speech by noting that the attack on the Hezbollah convoy revealed the unity between Beirut, Damascus and Tehran.
Nasrallah said that the martyrs of the attack reflect a “fusion of Lebanese-Iranian blood on Syrian territory, and reflects the unity of the cause and the unity of the fate of these countries.”
“When blood unites Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, then we will move towards an era of victory,” he added.
The death of Revolutionary Guard Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi and Hezbollah field commander Mohammad Issa shows how commanders are present on the ground along with the fighters, he added.
And the death of Jihad Mughniyeh, son of late-Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, shows how entire families have given themselves to the resistance, he added.
Nasrallah extended his condolences to the families of the victims and blessed the fallen fighters for their martyrdom.
The party leader also expressed his respect to the eight Lebanese soldiers killed during fierce clashes with militants near Ras Baalbek last week, likening the jihadi threat to the Israeli one.
He was referring to the day-long battle between the Lebanese Army and ISIS sparked after the jihadis attacked a military post in the area of Tallet al-Hamra.
The assembly hall that hosted the commemoration ceremony was packed with supporters waving Hezbollah flags and frequently interrupting the speech with cheers and applause.
The wall behind the podium was decorated with pictures of the six party fighters and Iranian general killed in the Israeli raid.
Nasrallah described the Israeli raid, saying helicopters in broad daylight targeted two vehicles, carrying seven people, all of whom were killed during the attack.
The motive behind the attack was clear, Nasrallah said.
Israel had “planned, calculated and took a premeditated decision to assassinate” the men, he added, denying claims that they were planning an attack on Israel.
Nasrallah also denounced the Arab League for its lack of support to Palestine during periods of conflict, saying it has benefited Israel more than the Palestinians.
The 22-member league “is not absent,” Nasrallah contended, “but does not exist at all.”
The 50-day Israeli assault on Gaza during July and August proves that, he added, pointing to the failure of Arab states to react to the assault which killed around 2,200 Palestinians, including more than 400 children.