Hezbollah will only step up its involvement in the conflict between Israel and Hamas if the Palestinian faction is completely eliminated in Gaza, a senior Hamas spokesman has said.
Speaking on Monday, Hamas’ representative in Beirut, Ahmed Abdul Hadi, said the allied militant group was not yet prepared to enter the fight, and would only escalate operations against Israel in the event of Hamas’ total defeat.
“Now is not the time,” Hadi said, as quoted by NBC News. “The red line for Hezbollah would be the full destruction of the resistance in Gaza.”
While Israeli troops have traded fire with Hezbollah fighters along the Israel-Lebanon border several times in recent weeks, the group’s second-in-command, Naim Qassem, has said the clashes were merely “for the sake of lowering the pressure on Gaza.” Other senior officials have refused to say what Hezbollah’s ‘red line’ for further involvement might be, stating its response would depend on Israel’s actions.
However, speaking on Saturday, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah suggested that the group was stepping up its activities after all, saying there had been “an upgrade” in operations along its front with Israel.
“There has been a quantitative improvement in the number of operations, the size and number of targets, as well as an increase in the type of weapons,” Nasrallah said, according to Reuters.
Israel’s military has warned that Hezbollah would be making a “grave mistake” if it intensified strikes on Israeli forces, and claims to have killed nearly 80 of the group’s fighters in recent clashes.
During a visit with Israeli troops over the weekend, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared that “Hezbollah is dragging Lebanon into a war that may happen,” adding “If it makes mistakes of this kind, the ones who will pay the price are first of all the citizens of Lebanon. What we are doing in Gaza we know how to do in Beirut.”
The latest conflict in Gaza erupted following a deadly Hamas attack on October 7, with Israel launching weeks of retaliatory airstrikes and steadily escalating a ground incursion in the Palestinian enclave. Around 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, and more than 11,000 in Gaza, according to local officials.
Hezbollah and Israel have fought two major wars and a long list of smaller engagements since the 1980s. Israeli troops were forced to withdraw from Lebanon following the conflict in 2006. The group maintains a sizable presence in southern Lebanon and periodically clashes with Israeli forces patrolling the border.