Hezbollah leader to weigh in on Hamas-Israel war; Top US diplomat arrives in Israel

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Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah will make his first public comments since the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel went to war. A speech that will be closely examined for clues as to how the group’s role in the conflict might evolve.
Hezbollah, a formidable force, has attacked Israeli forces along the border, where 55 of its fighters have been killed in the deadliest escalation since the country went to war with Israel in 2006.
On the eve of his speech on Friday, Hezbollah carried out what appeared to be its largest attack yet in more than three weeks of fighting, carrying out what it said was 19 simultaneous attacks on Israeli army positions and using explosive drones for the first time.
Israel responded with airstrikes and tank and artillery fire as fighting on the border escalated.

However, because the clashes so far have mainly taken place at the border, Hezbollah has still only used a fraction of the firepower with which Nasrallah has been threatening Israel for years.

Many people in Lebanon are eagerly awaiting the 3pm speech (midnight Friday, AEDT), wracked for weeks by fears of a catastrophic conflict. Some say they are not making plans beyond Friday because they believe his comments will signal the potential for escalation.
The speech is also widely anticipated. Nasrallah is a leading voice in a regional military alliance created by Iran to counter the United States and Israel.

Known as the “Axis of Resistance,” it includes Shiite Islamist Iraqi militias who have fired on US forces in Syria and Iraq, and Yemen’s Houthis, who have waded into the conflict by firing drones into Israel.

People check buildings destroyed during an Israeli attack on the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on Thursday. Source: Getty, NurPhoto / Majdi Fathi

Wearing the black turban of a Sayyed, or a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, and a Shiite clerical robe, Nasrallah is one of the most prominent figures in the Arab world.

Even recognized by critics as a skilled orator, his speeches have long been followed closely by friend and foe. He is considered a terrorist by opponents, including the US
His fiery speeches during the 2006 war boosted his profile, including one in which he announced that Hezbollah had hit an Israeli naval ship with an anti-ship missile, urging viewers to “look to the sea.”
Hezbollah is a Lebanese Islamic political party and militant group that was founded in 1982 after Israeli forces invaded southern Lebanon that year.
The country is backed by Iran and leads a multi-party alliance that controls just under half of the seats in the Lebanese parliament.
Hezbollah is listed as a terrorist organization by countries such as Australia, the US, Germany and the United Kingdom. The European Union calls only its military wing a terrorist organization.

However, Hezbollah itself makes no distinction between its political and military wings.

Top US diplomat arrives in Israel

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv on Friday to press for humanitarian pause in the Gaza war, after Israel said its forces had surrounded the Palestinian enclave’s largest city, the focus of its drive to to eradicate Hamas.
Israeli forces again shelled the Gaza Strip from the ground, sea and air throughout the night, amid global alarm over dire conditions in the besieged area and the rising number of deaths among Palestinian civilians.
Allied militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad said their fighters detonated explosives against advancing troops, dropped grenades from drones and fired mortars and anti-tank missiles in fierce urban warfare around destroyed buildings.
Blinken will discuss concrete steps to minimize harm to civilians in Gaza during his second trip to Israel in a month with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Buildings have been razed and thousands of people have fled their homes to escape brutal bombings.

The White House said any pause in fighting must be temporary and localized. It has rejected calls from Arab and several other countries for a complete ceasefire in the war, now in its 28th day.

A man in a suit and tie standing in front of a lectern and speaking.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel on Friday and is expected to call for local pauses in the fighting to allow humanitarian aid to Gaza. Source: AP / Andrew Harnik/AP

Health authorities in Gaza say at least 9,061 people – many of them women and children – have been killed since Israel began its assault on the enclave of 2.3 million people in retaliation for deadly attacks by Hamas militants on southern Israel.

Israel says Hamas has killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taken more than 240 hostages in its attacks on Israel. the deadliest day in its 75-year history.
On Thursday, Netanyahu said the army had surrounded Gaza City and was advancing. The Israeli military said Friday that its warplanes, artillery and navy struck Hamas targets overnight, killing several militants including Mustafa Dalul, a Hamas commander they said had led the battle in Gaza.

There was no immediate confirmation from Hamas.

Tanks driven by soldiers along a road.

Israeli tanks drive towards the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. An Israeli military spokesman said Thursday that troops had “completed the encirclement of Gaza City” Source: MONKEY / Ariel Schalit

The United Arab Emirates, one of the few Arab states with diplomatic ties to Israel, said Friday it was working “relentlessly” toward an immediate ceasefire, warning that the risk of regional spillover and further escalation was real.

Israel has rejected these calls, saying it is targeting Hamas fighters whom it accuses of deliberately hiding among the population and civilian buildings.
Hamas is a Palestinian military and political group that has come to power in the Gaza Strip since winning parliamentary elections there in 2006. Its stated goal is to establish a Palestinian state while refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Hamas as a whole is designated as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, Great Britain and the US, among others. New Zealand and Paraguay only call their military wing a terrorist group. In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly voted against a resolution condemning Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist organization.

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