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Hezbollah Steps Up Rhetoric Against Israel

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah stepped up his fiery rhetoric against Israel, warning the Jewish state not to contemplate another war with Lebanon, like the previous one in July 2006, because the next war will be much costlier.

Nasrallah was careful to note, in another recent speech, that his group would participate in the current Gaza conflict "morally, but not physically." But, this time he alluded to the eventual possibility of a conflict in which Hezbollah would fight.

"What is happening [in Gaza], today concerns us all, especially since all eyes, inside Lebanon and outside, are watching us," he said. "It is not clear how powerful are the forces against us or their will to take us on, so we must be prepared for all eventualities and always be ready to react at any moment."

Professor Sami Baroudi, of Beirut's Lebanese American University, however, thinks Nasrallah is quite pragmatic and will avoid another conflict with Israel, because the group does not want to antagonize foes or friends in Lebanon.

"... one has to be concerned, because it is not just Hezbollah and Israel. There may be other parties that have an interest in escalating. But I do not think there is a reason to be overly concerned," said Baroudi. "I think there is a consensus in Lebanon that this is not the time to start something that may really impair the reconstruction that has taken place [and] I do not think the people of the south are ready to go through another wave of displacement. I think there is a move towards dialogue and reconciliation and elections are coming up in the spring."

Nasrallah saved some of his choicest language to castigate the Egyptian government, accusing it of failing to help the militant Hamas movement or the people of Gaza to resist Israel's military attack.

He asks how many dead Palestinians Egypt needs in order to swing wide open the Rafah border crossing and allow the people of Gaza to "to resist and win" the conflict against Israel. He also accuses Egypt and other Arab governments of siding with Israel in its July 2006 summer war against Hezbollah.

Nasrallah was speaking by satellite link to a large crowd of supporters in Beirut's southern suburbs to mark the Shi'ite holy day of Ashura.