Hezbollah chief says group 'will fight without restraint' if Israel attacks Lebanon - as it happened

Ahram Online , Wednesday 3 Jan 2024

As Israeli tanks and aircraft intensify their attacks on Gaza, the assassination of Hamas leader Saleh Al-Arouri and six others in Beirut's southern suburb prompted Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah to warn of regional consequences.

Gaza
Palestinians walk between the remains of destroyed buildings following the Israeli bombardment on the main road of Gaza City. Photo: AP

 

While Israel has not officially acknowledged its involvement, US officials informed Axios that Israel conducted the operation without prior notification to the United States. In response, Hamas has suspended talks on the exchange of Israeli captives in Gaza for a humanitarian truce, a negotiation that has recently shown some progress, according to sources close to the Egyptian and Qatari mediators. Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas' political bureau, attributes responsibility for the "terrorist act" to the Zionist Nazi occupation. The Islamic Jihad Movement vows retribution, while Hezbollah characterizes the killing as a "serious assault on Lebanon," pledging that it will not go unanswered or unpunished. 

22:00   The United States on Wednesday rejected any suggestion that it or ally Israel was behind deadly blasts in Iran and warned against further escalation after a suspected Israeli attack on a Hamas leader in Lebanon.

21:30 UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Wednesday "more must be done to get humanitarian aid into Gaza" and that Israel "must allow significantly more supplies in to reduce the risk of hunger and disease", according to AFP.

"The UK also wants to see the immediate release of hostages and progress towards a sustainable ceasefire," the former British leader added, noting he had discussed the issues with new Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

21:20   The UN's top court will hear submissions next week from South Africa and Israel after Pretoria opened a case for what it called Israel's "genocidal" acts in Gaza.

South Africa wants to International Court of Justice to urgently order Israel to suspend its military operations in Gaza, in a case which Israel rejected "with disgust."

The ICJ "will hold public hearings at the Peace Palace in The Hague... in proceedings instituted by South Africa against Israel," on Thursday 11, and Friday 12 January, the court said in a statement.

The South African application, filed last Friday, related to alleged violations by Israel of its obligations under the Genocide Convention, saying that "Israel has engaged in, is engaging in and risks further engaging in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza."

20:00 Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel Wednesday against waging war on Lebanon, a day after a strike blamed on Israel killed Hamas's number two in the group's Beirut stronghold.

"If the enemy thinks of waging a war on Lebanon, we will fight without restraint, without rules, without limits and without restrictions," Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

"We are not afraid of war," he added.

19:30 Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday vowed a "harsh response" after twin blasts that killed at least 103 people in the country's south.

"The evil and criminal enemies of the Iranian nation once again created a disaster and martyred a large number of dear people in Kerman," said Khamenei in a statement.

"This disaster will have a harsh response, God willing."

18:40 Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah condemned in a speech on Wednesday the "blatant Israeli attack" that killed Hamas deputy Saleh al-Arouri in the suburbs of Beirut on Tuesday. 

17:30 The chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service vowed Wednesday that the agency would hunt down every Hamas member involved in the 7 Oct. Al-Aqsa Flood operation on Israel, no matter where they are.

He made the pledge a day after the deputy head of the Palestinian militant group was killed in a suspected Israeli strike in Beirut.

Israel has refused to comment on reports it carried out the killing, but the comments by David Barnea appeared to be the strongest indication yet it was behind the blast.

15:30 Iran's Kerman province officials have attributed twin blasts near Irani General Qassem Soleimani's tomb to "terrorist attacks," as conveyed by a local official, according to Reuters.

Initial reports from the semi-official Nournews suggested that the explosions were caused by several gas canisters detonating along the road leading to the cemetery. The incident occurred during a ceremony commemorating the 2020 death of Qassem Suleimani, Iran's top commander, in a US drone attack ordered by then-President Donald Trump.

State TV footage revealed Red Crescent rescuers attending to wounded individuals at the event, where hundreds of Iranians had gathered. Iranian media indicated that at least 150 people were injured, while reports suggest a death toll of at least 70.

15:00 France has described comments made by Israeli ministers calling for Palestinians to be forcibly displaced from Gaza and Jewish settlers to return to the besieged territory as “provocative.”

“France condemns the comments of Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement after Ben-Gvir’s statement on Monday and Smotrich’s on Sunday.

“We call on Israel to refrain from such provocative declarations, which are irresponsible and fuel tensions.”

14:30 A high-level Egyptian source affirmed that the negotiation track is the only viable solution to end the Israeli war on Gaza, adding that Egyptian mediation is “indispensable" to the process.

“There is no substitute for the negotiation track to address the crisis in the Gaza Strip and the Egyptian role is indispensable,” the source told Al-Qahera News on Wednesday.

The crisis, the source added, could escalate beyond all parties’ estimations if Egypt does not provide mediation.

Egypt – a key regional linchpin that mediated ceasefires between Israel and Palestinian factions during similar episodes of fighting in Gaza – is awaiting responses to a fresh initiative it proposed to end the Gaza war.

14:15 Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry asserted on Wednesday the nation's outright rejection of any form of Palestinians' displacement or the elimination of the Palestinian issue, emphasizing that such proposals fail to foster regional stability.

Shoukry conveyed this stance during his meeting with a US delegation, led by Senator Johnny Ernst, currently touring Egypt as part of a broader regional itinerary.

Highlighting the urgency of humanitarian aid reaching Palestinians in sufficient quantities, Shoukry anticipated the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 2720. This, he emphasized, is crucial for the prompt and sustainable delivery of aid, addressing the humanitarian needs of the sector.

14:00 Egypt’s head of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb have agreed to form a committee, comprising Al-Azhar and Egyptian churches, to address the aggression against Gaza.

13:00  At least 22,313 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza over nearly three months of Israeli attacks, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The ministry noted that 70% of the dead are women and children.

The toll includes 128 people killed over the past 24 hours, the ministry statement added, while Israeli attacks since 7 October have also wounded 57,296.

12:30 Egypt’s Minister of Health and Population Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar and France’s Presidential Advisor Philippe Lalliot discussed plans for establishing a field hospital near the Rafah border crossing and the Arish General Hospital to receive patients who have not received treatment yet in the war-torn Gaza Strip.

12:00 French President Emmanuel Macron cautioned Israel against considering the forced displacement of Gaza residents during a phone call with Israel's war cabinet member Benny Gantz on Tuesday. The president's office stated that Macron contended such statements were unacceptable and ran counter to the two-state solution, which he deemed the sole viable path for a return to peace and security for all.

Macron called on Israel to avoid escalation, especially in Lebanon, to prevent the risk of spreading conflict, as per the statement. "France will persist in conveying these messages to all actors involved, whether directly or indirectly, in the region," the statement emphasized.

11:30 A comprehensive strike is spreading across the West Bank regions, accompanied by a call for demonstrations by noon, coinciding with the Israeli occupation army's incursion into the refugee camps of Tulkarm and Qalqilya. The Israeli Broadcasting Corporation reported on Wednesday that Israel has arrested more than 2,570 Palestinians in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley since 7 October.

11:00 According to Reuters, a spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping force Unifil in Lebanon expressed "deep concern" about a potential escalation in the region. "We are deeply concerned at any potential for escalation that could have devastating consequences for people on both sides of the blue line. We continue to implore all parties to cease their fire, and we urge any interlocutors with influence to exercise restraint," the spokesperson stated.

The blue line refers to the UN-drawn boundary separating Lebanon and northern Israel. Unifil, established in 1978 to verify Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, currently comprises 9,347 troops, with 209 staff officers and 809 civilians in its administration.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah is set to address the assassination of Hamas leader Saleh Al-Arouri in his speech tonight. The speech, scheduled for 6:00 pm (Lebanon time), will be delivered during a ceremony commemorating the fourth anniversary of the killings of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.

9:30 The Israeli army announces the death of another Israeli soldier within the Gaza Strip in overnight combat. With the ground operation commencing in late October, the death toll among Israeli soldiers has now reached at least 174. According to local authorities in Gaza, Israel's military actions since 7 October have resulted in the deaths of over 22,000 Palestinians within the territory.

9:00 Yemen's Houthi rebels fired two missiles late Tuesday toward merchant ships traveling in the Red Sea near the strategic Bab Al-Mandeb Strait, the US military said following a report by the British maritime security agency UKMTO.

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