Hezbollah leader warns Israel of war with ‘no red lines,’ threatens Cyprus

Hezbollah leader warns Israel of war with ‘no red lines,’ threatens Cyprus

Politics

The leader of Hezbollah has vowed a fight with “no rules and with no red lines” if full-out war erupts between the Lebanese militant group and Israel, warning Cyprus against getting mired in the conflict.

Lebanon and Israel have regularly traded cross-border fire since the start of the Jewish state’s war against Palestinian militant group Hamas — which, like Hezbollah, is backed by Iran — in the Gaza Strip. Fire exchanges have intensified since an Israeli airstrike last week killed a senior Hezbollah commander, Taleb Sami Abdullah, along with three other group operatives.

In a televised speech at the official’s memorial service on Wednesday, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said: “Israel knows very well that no place will be safe from our missiles and drones” in the event of a war between the neighboring states, according to comments carried by the Hezbollah-aligned al-Manar TV news outlet.

He added that Hezbollah has now “obtained new weapons,” but did not share any more details. The group often uses rockets, anti-tank missiles and Burkan heavy warhead rockets, which are modeled off the Iranian Ababil drones, according to Seth Frantzman, adjunct fellow at the U.S.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank.

Nasrallah declared that Hezbollah’s numbers have now “far exceeded 100,000 fighters,” after first saying they’d hit that threshold in 2021, according to the Associated Press. The secretive nature of the group — which wields considerable political, military and social influence in Lebanon — makes it challenging to verify the figures. Lebanon’s formal military forces are estimated to have around 80,000 personnel, according to data portal IndexMundi.

The Hezbollah leader also threatened war against the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, if the European Union member permits Israel to launch military operations from its territory. Nasrallah accused Israel of “conducting maneuvers in preparation for the Lebanon war” in Cyprus, without disclosing his sources.

“I say that the Cypriot government must be careful because opening airports for the enemy to attack Lebanon means that Cyprus is part of the war and we will deal with it as part of the war,” al-Manar quoted Nasrallah as saying, according to a Google translation.

Cyprus has denied the accusations, but it has stepped up defense cooperation and participated in joint military exercises with Israel as recently as May 2023.

In response to Nasrallah, Cyprus’ President Nikos Christodoulides on Wednesday stressed that his country is not involved in the conflict and is, in fact, part of the solution, according to the Cyprus News Agency.

CNBC has reached out to the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment on whether Cypriot sites are used for Israeli military activity.

A man waves a Hezbollah movement flag as its leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a televised speech in Kherbet Selm in southern Lebanon on January 14, 2024, marking the one week memorial since the killing top field commander Wissam Tawil.

Mahmoud Zayyat | Afp | Getty Images

Nasrallah’s speech fans the flames of increasingly heated rhetoric over the past week, as the spike in missiles traded between Israel and Lebanon raises concerns of a wider conflict in the Middle East.

Earlier this week, Hezbollah released a video, allegedly captured by its surveillance drones, showing military sites in Israeli port Haifa. In response, the Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday said that “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated, and decisions were taken on the continuation of increasing the readiness of troops in the field,” without detailing the extent of the initiative or whether it would involve troop deployment across the border.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz also warned that his country is now “very close to the moment of decision to change the rules against Hezbollah and Lebanon.”

The U.S.’ efforts to abate the conflict and gain traction for its peace framework for the Gaza enclave have so far proven futile, with senior White House envoy Amos Hochstein meeting with leaders in Israel and Lebanon earlier this week.

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