The second in command of Lebanon’s Hezbollah has hinted the militia could be dragged into a more intense conflict with Israel if it does not halt its attacks on Gaza.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Naim Qassem said the group questioned global support of Israel’s military action in Gaza.
“How does America and the rest of the world have the right to stand on the side of Israel that kills civilians and children and destroys homes while we don’t have the right to support our people and loved ones in Palestine and the region,” he told Matt Bradley.
When asked if action by Hezbollah risked bringing Lebanon and the wider region into a war with Israel, Qassem added: “Hezbollah is in a position of resistance and reaction.
“The one who expands the aggression is Israel and who expands the aggression is America and Europe that supports the Israeli actions.
“And what expands the aggression is the killing of civilians and children.
“It’s not possible to watch these difficult, painful and dangerous scenes and not get involved because what they do in Palestine they will do later in Lebanon and the region.”
Qassem’s comments come just days after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said all options on the Lebanese front were open and the group was “ready for all possibilities” – as well as for US warships.
In his first speech since the outbreak of the war, he said: “Your fleets in the Mediterranean… will not scare us.”
Nasrallah stopped short of announcing that Hezbollah was fully engaging in the Israel-Hamas war – but said the fighting on the Lebanon-Israel border would “not be limited” to the scale seen until now and that all options are “on the table”.
Meanwhile, on Monday Gaza lost communications in its third total outage of the conflict so far, as Israel’s military said it had divided the Palestinian territory into two.
Israeli media reported the country’s troops are expected to enter Gaza City within 48 hours, having encircled the area.
And according to the White House, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu have discussed the potential for “tactical pauses” in fighting.
Spokesperson John Kirby said the US and Israeli governments would continue to be in touch regarding potential pauses for humanitarian reasons and possible hostage releases.
The leaders themselves would also continue talks in the coming days, he said.
“You can expect that we’re going to continue to advocate for temporary and localised pauses in the fighting,” Mr Kirby said.
“We consider ourselves at the beginning of this conversation, not at the end of it.”
The Biden administration maintains that a general ceasefire would not be an appropriate step – a stance backed up by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.