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Nasrallah: Gaza ground assault ill-advised

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah speaks on a TV screen during a ceremony in Beirut's southern suburbs, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Hamas has the capacity to defend Gaza from an Israeli ground operation should the Jewish state decide to launch one, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said over the weekend.

“I affirm to you that even in a ground operation by Israel, the resistance in Gaza, thank God, has sufficient capabilities, will and plans, which were formulated after the 2008 war to fill in gaps, [to face Israel],” Nasrallah said Saturday during a televised speech on the third day of Ashoura.

“I think that the Israelis would be engaging in a folly and making a very big mistake if they decide to launch a ground military operation against Gaza,” Nasrallah added.

His words were echoed by Hamas’ top official in Lebanon, Ali Barakeh, who said the Palestinian resistance does not fear a ground operation.

“If Netanyahu decides to send his troops to Gaza, he will have to face the consequences, knowing that the resistance has developed its capabilities in the past four years,” Barakeh said, accusing Israel of sparking the conflict with its assassination of Hamas military commander Ahmad al-Jaabari.

Earlier this week, Israel launched an aerial attack killing Jaabari, prompting the Palestinian party to respond with rocket fire that reached Tel Aviv.

Israel has begun preparing for what appears to be a ground invasion of Gaza, calling up 16,000 reservists and gathering tanks outside the enclave after days of airstrikes.

Nasrallah said that Israel was already in a state of confusion after only a few days of reciprocal attacks, because of Hamas’ capabilities and its possession of long- and medium-range missiles.

The Hezbollah chief also voiced confidence that Hamas could still attack Tel Aviv, some parts of Jerusalem and other areas, saying: “There might be other surprises the resistance is preparing in Gaza in this confrontation.”

Nasrallah, who has urged Arab countries to pressure Israel to end the aerial attack, said Hamas was in a different position today as the Palestinian resistance places conditions on a truce.

“In the Cairo talks, [Hamas] is the one placing conditions and rejecting a cease-fire at any price. One of the conditions is to end the blockade on Gaza and have international and regional guarantees that the Israeli enemy will not assassinate or launch a new aggression,” he said.

He reiterated his demand for Arab countries to take the necessary steps including cutting oil production in order to pressure Israel to end its “aggression,” saying that “with one phone call, [U.S. President Barack] Obama can stop the war.”

He added that Hamas was capable of victory but it still needed serious Arab support.

“We fear that some Arab countries will pressure the Palestinian resistance to abandon its rightful demands so that they can say that they played a role in calming the situation in front of the U.S. administration and Obama,” Nasrallah added.

Arab foreign ministers roundly denounced Israel’s campaign in Gaza in an emergency meeting in Cairo Saturday and demanded a review of what they called their futile diplomacy toward the Jewish state.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, who chaired the meeting, said Sunday that the calls made by Arab foreign ministers were not enough to deal with the situation in Gaza.

Mansour told his fellow ministers during the session that “the time has come to stand united for once against Israel after 64 years of aggression.”

Meanwhile, Lebanese and Palestinian groups organized solidarity demonstrations across the country over the weekend.

Several hundred people gathered at the ESCWA building in Beirut while Palestinian refugee camps in the south and north witnessed a number of solidarity protests.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 19, 2012, on page 3.

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