hezbollah leader

Hezbollah leader: Kurdish independence vote a US-Israeli plot

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group on Saturday night accused Israel and the US of orchestrating a controversial referendum on support for independence in Iraq’s Kurdistan, and warned it could lead to the dividing of several countries in the region.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech that the referendum held on Monday does not threaten Iraq alone but also Turkey, Syria and Iran, which all have large Kurdish minorities.

Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly voted for independence in the non-binding, symbolic referendum, which sent regional tensions soaring. Iran, Turkey and Syria have all rejected it.

Nasrallah said the divisions would also reach other countries in the region including Saudi Arabia, a country that he harshly criticized in his speech.

“The responsibility of the Kurds, Iraqi people and concerned counties… is to stand against the beginning of divisions,” he said.

Hezbollah’s patron Iran turned to economic weapons in retaliation for the independence referendum, freezing trade in fuels.

After the autonomous Kurdish region’s “yes” vote for independence, Tehran, fearing it will provoke separatists among its own Kurdish minority, announced a fuel trade ban.

Iran’s state broadcaster said all transport companies and drivers have been ordered to stop carrying fuel products between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan “until further notice.”

Diesel is one of Iran’s key exports to the oil-rich region, mainly for power plants and vehicles, while the Kurds rely almost exclusively on crude and fuel oil exports to raise revenues.

Turkish measures

Northern neighbor Turkey also strongly opposed the vote.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that Ankara had been saddened to see some Iraqi Kurds celebrating the referendum with Israeli flags.

“This shows one thing, that this administration (in northern Iraq) has a history with (Israel’s intelligence agency) Mossad, they are hand-in-hand together,” Erdogan said.

Fearing, like Iran, that it would inflame separatist aspirations within its own Kurdish population, Ankara has threatened measures including blocking lifeline oil exports from the region via Turkey.

Washington, another critic, said it did not recognize the “unilateral” referendum and urged dialogue and a rejection of the use of force.

“The vote and the results lack legitimacy and we continue to support a united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday.




On Sunday Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech to mark the 11th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War. He called to the Israeli leadership not to stop at the closure of the Haifa ammonia tank – which was ordered closed due to health hazards – but to continue and move the nuclear research center in Dimona. He also referred to the Second Lebanon War as “a divine victory.”

“One example of the respect and recognition Israel gives the ‘resistance’ is the closure of the ammonia tank in Haifa,” he said. “We hope that they will look into moving the nuclear reactor in Dimona as it is more dangerous and needs extra care.”

Nasrallah warned Israel against future military operations in Lebanon. He said that “any Israeli unit that enters Lebanon will be defeated,” adding, “Israel’s goal in the war was to crush Hezbollah, but since [the war], our strength only increased and the Israelis know it. When Israelis speak about the capacities of Hezbollah growing they recognize their defeat in the war.”

“The age in which Israelis would threaten and act is over, because Hezbollah is part of the resistance that brought down the project of greater Israel, ” said Nasrallah. “As the enemy knows, a military action can’t reach the goal of eliminating the resistance… they use other means. ”

America and Israel, two “terrorist states.”

The Hezbollah leader addressed the US as well, claiming that “the US and Israel are crying because the terrorist groups have failed in Syria.”

A few hours before the speech Nasrallah met five Hezbollah fighters who returned from Syria where they were held captive by the Al Nusra front, a salafist jihadist terrorist group. The group traded the five Hezbollah fighters in exchange for five of their own fighters that were captured by Hezbollah.

The returned fighters were labeled ” heroes” by Nasrallah.

He went on to say that “Israel is hopeful that the administration of President Donald Trump will use pressure to achieve this goal [of weakening Hezbollah using non-military options]” and that he hoped no one in Lebanon will cooperate with the American pressure, including economic sanctions.



Lebanese television reporter Maria Maalouf took to Twitter on Saturday night to urge Israel to make good on past threats and take out Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
In two different tweets Maalouf published on her official Twitter handle late Saturday night, the reporter turned to the State of Israel and said that if the latter really wanted to see peace in the region, it ought to arrive at some sort of agreement with the Shi’ite terror organization.
“If Israel really wants peace, then it should prove it and sign on agreements with Hezbollah. Because, to this day we have not gotten rid of Hassan Nasrallah, who is deluding us in his fight against Israel,” Maalouf wrote in her first tweet.

Shortly after, Maalouf tweeted again, this time taunting Israel and claiming that it could not really deter its enemies if it didn’t take more extreme measures. “If Israel sees Hassan Nasrallah as its enemy, why doesn’t it carry out an air strike that would rid us of him, thus gaining our faith and protecting itself?”


This second quote gained a lot of traction, triggering a heated debate among the reporter’s 222,000 Twitter followers. Many lashed at Maalouf, who is known for her avid stand against the Syrian regime, while others reacted by saying that her suggestions couldn’t possibly happen because “Israel and Hezbollah are on the same side,” alluding to radical conspiracy theories claiming that Israel and Hezbollah are actually in contact and seeking collaboration behind the scenes.

It appears that the timing of Maalouf’s comments was a contributing factor in the sensation they sparked. In recent months many voices across the Lebanese political map have been raising a similar concern that Hezbollah could potentially cause a crisis in Lebanon due to its ongoing involvement in the Syrian Civil War alongside the Assad regime.

This is not the first time Maalouf has made controversial statements, nor is it the first that she comes under the harsh fire of the critics. Last week the son of Syria’s envoy to Jordan threatened to kill Maalouf, writing on his personal Facebook page that “we have the hanging rope ready for you” and making further threats on her life. In response, Maalouf called for Lebanese authorities to try the ambassador’s son.

Maalouf is considered one of the main central figures in the Lebanese media to actively speak out against Iran, Hezbollah’s militias and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Often drawing the ire of critics and television viewers, she is known for raising provocative questions and reporting sensitive stories regarding corruption among the Lebanese political elite.

Did Israel take advantage of Middle East mayhem to take out Hezbollah leader?

It remains unclear who killed the top Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine this week in Syria, but if Israel turns out to be responsible as a Hezbollah MP claimed, it signals an aggressive tactical move by Israel to take advantage of the mayhem in the region to take out its enemies.

Whether Israel is responsible or not, perhaps the killing of such a senior Hezbollah figure is a sign that there is currently a ripe opportunity for Israel to take out terror organization leaders in the region.

Iranian backed Hezbollah has suffered ongoing casualties during the Syrian civil war in its effort to prop up Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Israel has reportedly taken periodic action against Hezbollah targets in order to prevent weapons transfers from Syria to Lebanon since the Syrian uprising broke out in 2011.

The question is if Israel should press to assassinate Hezbollah and even Hamas leaders while the tumultuous regional chaos limits Israel’s enemies from uniting against it.

Hamas suffered greatly in the 2014 war and is busy preparing for the next round, including the building of tunnels into Israel.

Shi’ite Hezbollah is busy in a life and death struggle in Syria against Sunni rebels including Islamic State. Hamas is isolated as the Egyptian regime has been destroying smuggling tunnels and cracking down on jihadists in Sinai. The group’s relations with Iran and Hezbollah are strained because of its past stance in favor of the Syrian rebels against Iran ally Assad.

It appears the current regional circumstances allow for the least aggressive retaliation by Hamas and Hezbollah for any action against its interests.

“Hezbollah needs to walk a fine line. On the one hand, it will ultimately retaliate, but while also looking to avoid a major escalation leading to a full-blown war,” Tony Badran, research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The Jerusalem Post.
Asked who he thinks is behind the attack, he responded that Israel is the most likely candidate, but Hezbollah is being careful in its statements, saying that it is still investigating the matter.
Badran points out that by naming Israel as the responsible party, Hezbollah would be forced to respond, even if not necessarily right away.
A number of Hezbollah commanders have been killed in Syria and Lebanon over the past three years, and, having blamed Israel for their deaths, Hezbollah has retaliated against Israel, if in a limited fashion.
However, Badran adds, especially after the strike in Quneitra that killed senior Hezbollah commanders and Imad Mughniyeh’s son in January of last year, “people don’t realize how close the situation came to escalating into a full blown war.”
Weeks after the strike in Quneitra, a Hezbollah operation killed two Israeli soldiers along the Lebanese border. Badran speculates that if more soldiers were killed, Israel would likely have felt the need to escalate, and a war could have erupted.
At the same time, Hezbollah continues to be mired in the Syrian war. “Badreddine’s death comes at a moment when Hezbollah and the Iranians are taking a lot of casualties in Aleppo in particular,” he said.
“I don’t see Syrian war winding down any time soon, and even when it does, things don’t simply go back exactly to how they were before,” he added.
Asked if now is the time for Israel to launch more assassinations against Hezbollah, Badran replied, “One could make a case, that because of Hezbollah’s less than optimal position, as a result of Syria, it would be better to hit them now than wait until they improve their position.”
After the Syrian war winds down and Hezbollah secures its interests in Syria and Iran emerges as an internationally-recognized stakeholder in Syria, the situation could become more complicated for Israel.
“I suspect that from the perspective of Israel’s decision makers, if you have good intelligence and the opportunity presents itself, you take it,” he concluded.

Hezbollah leader: Israel killed Kuntar, we will avenge his death

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed in a televised address Monday evening that his Lebanon-based Shiite terror group would respond to the killing of notorious operative Samir Kuntar, which it blamed on Israel.

“We reserve the right to respond to this assassination at the time and place of our choosing. We in Hezbollah will exercise that right,” he said in his address from Beirut.

Hezbollah has said Kuntar, who spent nearly three decades in an Israeli prison for his part in the brutal 1979 murders of a Nahariya family, was killed along with eight others in an overnight Saturday airstrike on a residential building in Jaramana, on the outskirts of the Syrian capital of Damascus.

“I hold Israel responsible for the assassination of Kuntar,” Nasrallah said.

Nasrallah recalled the first time he met Kuntar after he was released from prison in Israel.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, honors Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009. (AP/Mehdi Ghasemi)

“Kuntar told me the first day we met, ‘I left Palestine to return to Palestine,’” he said. “Kuntar refused to take any political or public responsibilities, he only wanted to fight Israel.”

The Hezbollah leader accused Israel of firing guided missiles at the building where Kuntar was living. He dismissed some Syrian reports to the effect that it wasn’t Israel, but rather rebels, who killed Kuntar.

“We have no doubt that the Israeli enemy was behind the assassination in a blatant military operation,” he said, according to the Naharnet news site.

Nasrallah also praised the Palestinian youths who have been involved in the current wave of terror attacks against Israel, and noted admiringly that Kuntar was only a teenager himself when he carried out his most notorious attack, in which he smashed in the head of an Israeli child.

Earlier in the day, during Kuntar’s funeral in a Hezbollah stronghold south of the capital Beirut, the terror group’s Executive Assembly chief Hashim Safi Al Din threatened revenge against Israel for the slaying.

A general view taken on December 20, 2015, shows Syrians gathering at the site of a reported Israeli air raid that killed Samir Kuntar, in Jaramana, southeast of the Syrian capital Damascus. (AFP/LOUAI BESHARA)

“If the Israeli thinks he settled the score with Kuntar’s assassination, then he is wrong,” Al Din said. “He knows he only set new scores. If Israel hasn’t learned from all of its failed attempts to assassinate senior commanders, then it ought to know it committed a new stupid act by assassinating Kuntar.”

Israel has not confirmed that it was behind the attack, although officials have expressed satisfaction over Kuntar’s death. There have also been Israeli reports that Kuntar was planning fresh terror attacks against Israel.

A Lebanese Druze, Kuntar took part in the 1979 raid from Lebanon in which he helped kidnap members of the Haran family from Nahariya. The family’s four-year-old daughter, Einat, was killed when Kuntar smashed her head with his rifle butt. Three others, including her father, Danny, were also murdered in the attack. Kuntar was 16 at the time, and a member of the Palestine Liberation Front.

Kuntar spent 29 years in an Israeli prison before being traded to Hezbollah in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Following his release, he took on a senior role in the group, was honored by then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and by Syrian President Bashar Assad, and helped to organize Syrian Druze on the Golan Heights and elsewhere into terror cells charged with carrying out attacks against Israel.