When the Hamas-Israeli war began, Western leaders immediately turned their attention to Lebanon’s southern border with Israel. It is the home turf of Hezbollah, the Middle East’s most powerful paramilitary group, and is widely believed to be a potential launching pad for a regional war.
Since the war began, Hezbollah’s charismatic leader Hassan Nasrallah — and his own party’s only real spokesman — has remained remarkably quiet.
There has been a week of limited escalation between Hezbollah and Israel on the volatile border. The United States, France and other countries have repeatedly called on the group to refrain from entering the fray of the Hamas-Israel war. Two US aircraft carriers – including the nuclear-powered USS Gerald Ford – were sent to the eastern Mediterranean in an apparent attempt to deter Hezbollah.
But Hezbollah’s involvement in the larger conflict remains murky. Nasrallah’s domestic, regional and international observers were left to sift through the information coming out.
Last week, he released a handwritten letter praising his soldiers who died fighting on the border, and only mentioned the ongoing war, reinforcing his sense of deafening silence.
On Sunday, he appeared in a 12-second video as a shadowy figure walking in and out of frame, nodding slightly at a Hezbollah poster as he passed. Many interpreted Nasrallah as planning to move into a new phase of the conflict.
Hours later, Hezbollah media outlets finally scheduled their leader’s first speech since October 7.
Today, he’s set to deliver that much-anticipated televised speech, and viewers will watch it answer some pressing questions:
- Will Hezbollah continue to engage in tit-for-tat exchanges in accordance with loosely defined rules of engagement with Israel?
- Could the border expansion act as a prelude to an all-out war, not just in Lebanon — still reeling from a crushing financial crisis — but, perhaps, in Syria, where the group is fighting Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards?
- How tightly coordinated were Hezbollah’s operations with Hamas, with whom they had a tenuous alliance?
Hezbollah is backed by Iran, but has grown into a regional power in its own right. It is a more sophisticated fighting group than Hamas and has more advanced weapons, including precision-guided missiles and drones. On Thursday, it said it had used a self-exploding drone in an attack on an Israeli military position for the first time in its history.
Today’s talk is expected to be long and heated. Western leaders will be watching for signs of what’s in store for this conflict. Nasrallah is unlikely to show his full hand – but will keep everyone guessing.
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