Nasrallah warns northern Israel would be ‘first to pay price’ if full-blown war erupts

In 2nd speech this week, Hezbollah chief vows response is coming on the killing of Hamas terror orchestrator Arouri, says Lebanon would be exposed if assassination went unanswered

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened that Israel’s northern residents would be “the first to pay the price if a full-scale war were to erupt” along the front, and boasted of the terror group’s achievements in recent daily skirmishes, in a nationally televised speech Friday.

The leader of the Iran-backed terror group also used the address to repeat many of the same threats against Israel that he made earlier this week again vowing to avenge deputy Hamas chief Saleh al-Arouri’s killing in Beirut while remaining vague on the specifics.

Nasrallah said that all of Lebanon would be exposed to further Israeli strikes if the group did not react to the assassination of Arouri in Beirut, allegedly carried out by Israel.

“The response is coming. The decision has already been made. The matter now depends on what will unfold on the ground and on Allah,” Nasrallah said.

“We cannot remain silent on a violation of this magnitude because it means the whole of Lebanon would be exposed,” he asserted, adding that allowing Israel to succeed in its operations in Gaza would lead to the IDF following suit in Lebanon.

The attack on Arouri has sparked fears of a broader conflagration because he was the most high-profile figure to be killed since October 7 and because his death came in the first strike on the Lebanese capital since hostilities started.

Lebanon filed a complaint to the UN Security Council over the killing of Arouri, calling it the “most dangerous phase” of Israeli attacks on the country.

The complaint, dated January 4 but seen by Reuters on Friday, said Israel used six missiles in the attack that killed Arouri and added that Israel uses Lebanese airspace to bomb Syria.

The complaint appeared largely symbolic and is unlikely to lead to any tangible action against Israel.

Hours after the speech, at least 10 rockets were fired from Lebanon at the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona, triggering sirens in the city and the adjacent community of Kfar Giladi.

Local authorities said five projectiles were intercepted, while the five others landed in open areas, causing no injuries or damage.

The IDF said it carried out an airstrike on a Hezbollah command center in the southern Lebanese village of Blida in response to attacks on the border.

It also said tanks and artillery shelled a number of areas along the border, apparently to foil planned Hezbollah attacks. Following rocket fire on Kiryat Shmona, the IDF said it was striking the launch sites.

Nasrallah claimed Friday that Hezbollah carried out 670 operations on the border since October 8, destroying a “large number of Israeli vehicles and tanks,” as well as technical and intelligence collection equipment, “exhausting Israel” on the front.

“No site along the border has been spared” in the attacks, he said, adding that 48 Israeli border positions and 11 rear bases were targeted.

Some experts were skeptical of the claims, posing that the figures were directed at the terror group’s supporters in Lebanon to justify the organization’s losses since it began launching attacks.

Since the deadly Hamas onslaught of October 7, in which some 1,200 people were slaughtered, mostly civilians, and around 240 were taken hostage, Hezbollah and allied Palestinian terror factions have engaged in daily cross-border clashes with Israeli troops along the Lebanon border. Lebanese terrorists have also targeted Israeli civilians and their homes, forcing tens of thousands to evacuate the area.

The fighting along the border has resulted in four civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of nine IDF soldiers.

Hezbollah has named 143 members who have been killed by Israel in the same period, five of them in the last day. Another 19 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 19 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have also been killed.

“The first aim of our northern front is to put pressure on the enemy to stop its aggression on Gaza, and the second aim is to draw resources from the IDF near Gaza, to ease the burden on the Palestinian resistance,” Nasrallah said.

“Whoever is pressuring [Israel] to carry out an attack in Lebanon, I say to you, this is an error. The solution is to ask the government to end the war in Gaza,” he stated, in an apparent reference to northern residents and hawkish officials who are urging the government to take military action to push Hezbollah away from the border.

Nasrallah added in his speech that its current operations on the southern borders opened a “historic opportunity” for Lebanon to liberate its land occupied by Israel and that the Islamic resistance in Iraq also has a “historic opportunity” to get rid of the US presence in that country.

Israel’s political and military leaders have said repeatedly since October 7 that Hezbollah will have to withdraw its forces from the border area to north of the Litani River, as required by 2006’s UN Resolution 1701, and that either this will be achieved diplomatically or by force.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant reiterated the position Friday during a visit to the northern border and warned time was running out for a diplomatic solution.

“We prefer the path of an agreed-upon diplomatic settlement, but we are getting close to the point where the hourglass will turn over,” Gallant says during a situational assessment at the IDF’s Northern Command base.

The territory Lebanon claims remains occupied following Israel’s withdrawal from the country’s south in 2000 includes the disputed Mount Dov region, also known as the Shebaa Farms, the Kfarshuba hills and the Lebanese side of the village of Ghajar.

Hezbollah is estimated to have some 150,000 rockets and missiles, including thousands or tens of thousands with the range to reach central Israel and hundreds of precision-guided missiles.

Former senior IDF officer and Defense Ministry Ombudsman Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick, said late Wednesday that Hezbollah’s rockets and missiles were part of what he called “the gravest existential threat since the foundation of the state.” Thousands of projectiles could be fired daily “at population centers, IDF bases, electricity and water infrastructure. Everybody knows this, not only Nasrallah. We know this. They know what they have. We haven’t prepared for this.”

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