Hezbollah 'respects' ceasefire with Israel, chief says

Beirut (AFP) –


Hezbollah respects a UN-brokered ceasefire with Israel in place since a 2006 war but is ready to respond to any "aggression", the head of the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite movement said Tuesday.

Hassan Nasrallah's remarks follow an escalation between the two foes that started on August 24 when an Israeli strike killed two Hezbollah operatives in Syria.

It was followed hours later by what Hezbollah described as an Israeli drone attack on its Beirut stronghold, heightening fears of all-out conflict.

A 33-day war in 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Nasrallah said Hezbollah was committed to UN Security Council resolution 1701 that ended the conflict.

"So that nobody worries, is afraid or wonders, Lebanon respects 1701 and Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government that respects resolution 1701," he said in a speech marking a Shiite religious holiday.

"But it will be different ... if Israel attacks Lebanon, bombards Lebanon ... or sends explosive drones" to Lebanon.

"In the event of an attack on Lebanon, in any form whatsoever, there will be an adequate response to the aggression," Nasrallah warned in a speech watched by thousands of supporters on a big screen in the movement's south Beirut stronghold.

Tensions flared along the Israeli-Lebanese border on September 1 when Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles at an Israeli military vehicle and battalion headquarters and Israel responded with a salvo of artillery shells.

On Monday Hezbollah said it had downed and seized an Israeli drone as it flew across the Lebanese border.

Israel has staged hundreds of strikes against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria since the civil war began there in 2011, vowing to prevent its arch-foe Iran from entrenching itself militarily in the neighbouring country.

Hezbollah, which has grown into Iran's most powerful regional proxy, wields huge influence in Lebanese politics.

The escalation with Israel comes at a time when Iran and the United States, a close ally of the Jewish state, are also at loggerheads.

Nasrallah said his group opposed "any plan for war against the Islamic republic of Iran, because this war will inflame the region and destroy countries and peoples.

"A war would mark the end of Israel, and mark the end of the American domination and presence in our region," he said.