BEIRUT (AP) — The leader of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group vowed on Friday to support Palestinian militants battling Israeli troops in Gaza, even as his own fighters are bogged down in the war in neighboring Syria.
In his first remarks on the latest Israeli-Palestinian fighting that erupted on July 8, Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel that it would be “suicide” to continue waging war in the Gaza Strip.
Hezbollah, a Shiite group, has long been one of the closest allies of Hamas, the main Palestinian Sunni faction which controls Gaza. Both militant groups are backed by Iran.
But relations between Hamas and Hezbollah soured following the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule in Syria, which erupted in March 2011, became an insurgency waged by overwhelmingly Sunni rebels, and later descended into full-blown civil war.
Hamas’ leader Khaled Mashaal shuttered Hamas’ Damascus offices and now spends most of his time in Qatar, the tiny Gulf Arab country that has strongly backed the rebels battling to overthrow Assad.
Hezbollah, meanwhile, is heavily engaged in fighting alongside Assad’s forces in Syria.
On Friday, Nasrallah called for putting all disputes aside in support of Gaza.
He said Hezbollah is closely following the Israel-Hamas fighting and that his followers will do all they can to help the Palestinians. He did not elaborate.
“From here I say to our brothers in Gaza: We are with you and beside you and confident of your steadfastness and your victory and we will do everything we can to support you,” he said.
Nasrallah spoke during a rare public appearance before thousands of supporters in southern Beirut, marking “Al-Quds Day” — a day of solidarity with Palestinians that Arabs traditionally observe on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Al-Quds is Arabic for Jerusalem.
He said Gazans have already emerged victorious because “Israel has failed to touch the command and control structures of the Palestinian resistance,” or achieve any of its goals in Gaza so far.
Addressing Israelis, Nasrallah said: “You are in Gaza now in a state of failure, don’t go further to the level of suicide and collapse.”
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