Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah called for a ceasefire in Gaza on Friday, easing concerns in Lebanon about the possibility of a broader conflict with Israel. In a televised address, Nasrallah denied prior knowledge of Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which triggered the current conflict. He also kept open the option of escalating tensions with Israel if the situation in Gaza worsens. Nasrallah attributed the ongoing violence in Gaza to the United States.
The war in Lebanon is currently limited to the southern region, where more than 70 people, mostly Hezbollah fighters, have been killed. Israel has reported six soldiers and one civilian killed, while Hezbollah claims to have killed or injured 120 Israeli soldiers.
Leading up to the speech, Lebanon was on edge, fearing the country’s involvement in a wider confrontation with Israel. However, Nasrallah’s statement relieved many Lebanese, emphasising that defeating Israel is a gradual process and not a one-time event.
Lebanon’s political class, including caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, had expressed a desire to avoid a broader war, but many believed that the final decision rested with Nasrallah.
However, Nasrallah indicated that any escalation in Gaza would also impact the Lebanon-Israel border. He emphasised that as long as Hamas could hold out against the Israeli military, there might not be a need for further intervention, emphasising that eliminating Hamas was an unattainable goal. In essence, he clarified that Gaza remained the primary front, with Lebanon’s border with Israel being secondary. While his speech was characterised as rational, Nasrallah did not offer reassurances to the United States or Israel regarding avoiding an escalation.