The powerful head of the Lebanese military group Hezbollah stopped short of announcing all-out war against Israel – but issued a volley of threats against Israel and the US in his first speech since the 7 October atrocities.
Fervent Hezbollah supporters in Beirut shouted slogans, waved Palestinian flags and professed adulation for their leader Hassan Nasrallah as they watched him broadcasting from a secret location, with his image projected on a giant screen erected in the centre of Beirut.
The disgust and anger over the Israeli bombardment of Gaza is at fever pitch in Lebanon, and there was much hype over just what the Hezbollah chief was going to say.
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Although a divisive figure, Nasrallah is viewed as a hero among his followers and his voice carries much weight in the region.
Thousands gathered to see whether the country – already battered by economic difficulties and political instability – was going to be plunged into a violent regional war too.
Instead, the Hezbollah leader issued some strong warnings, declaring that Lebanon is already involved in the war.
“Some claim Hezbollah is about to join the fray. I tell you: We have been engaged in this battle since October 8,” he told the crowd.
“Some would like Hezbollah to engage in an all-out war, but I can tell you: what is happening now along the Israeli-Lebanese border is significant, and it is not the end.”
He went on to threaten the US and urged them to rein in Israel from inflicting more civilian casualties in Gaza.
“You, the Americans, can stop the aggression against Gaza because it is your aggression,” he said. “Whoever wants to prevent a regional war, and I am talking to the Americans, must quickly halt the aggression on Gaza.”
As he was speaking, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was warning Israel’s “enemies in the north” not to escalate the war – telling them: “You cannot imagine how much this is going to cost you.”
So many among Nasrallah’s supporters are willing and seemingly ready for war.
One young woman we spoke to said: “I can’t lie and say I’m not worried … I am worried about a war happening and people dying.
“But if this war is going to free Palestine from Israel and make Israel fade away, then yes – I want a war to happen and put us at peace finally.”
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Nasrallah has been significantly silent since last month’s Hamas attacks, which Israeli authorities say killed more than 1,400 people – with over 230 kidnapped and taken back to Gaza.
Both Hamas and Hezbollah are supported and funded by Iran, but Nasrallah told the crowd the Hamas attacks were unknown to both Hezbollah and Iran.
Even in the countdown to his speech, Hezbollah fired a volley of strikes into Israel including using explosive drones.
But he appeared to step back from the abyss by not firing the starting gun to wholescale more extensive Hezbollah involvement – for now.
That is likely to be viewed with huge relief among those who are worried about the conflict igniting a much more widespread regional war.