Hezbollah's second-in-command warns of expanding conflict in NBC News interview

In his interview with NBC News, Qassem explained that Hezbollah’s combat posture was primarily one of deterrence — that its increasingly powerful but still-restrained cross-border attacks were meant to drag Israeli forces from their actions in Gaza.

But like Nasrallah, he remained carefully noncommittal.

“What we do now is what we need to be doing, and when we need to do more than that we will,” he said.

Israel has thousands of troops stationed in the north and has warned Hezbollah against what it says would be the “mistake” of launching all-out war. On Monday it greeted the rare U.S. move of announcing it had deployed a guided missile submarine to the region as a welcome display of deterrence.

Schenker, who also worked as the Pentagon’s top policy aide on the Arab nations of the Levant, said the coordinated harassment of American military installations may be meant to relieve political pressure on Hezbollah by its supporters to fully enter the war and spare it from what could be disastrous Israeli retaliation.

“So they raise the cost for Israel, they put more pressure on Israel and they test our resolve to support Israel,” he said. “There has to be some movement somewhere that raises the credibility of the Iranian threat. I think that everyone knows that Iran doesn’t want to waste the Hezbollah asset to protect Palestinians.”

The Lebanon-Israel border has been the site of regular clashes between Israeli forces on one side and Hezbollah and Palestinian armed groups on the other since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war.
Israeli forces have been striking targets inside Lebanon as they increasingly exchange fire with Hezbollah.Hussein Malla / AP

But Hezbollah may still act in a way that could drag Lebanon into war. In his speech Friday, Nasrallah declared that the group would kill an Israeli civilian for each Lebanese civilian that Israel kills.

On Sunday night, Israeli bombs struck a vehicle in southern Lebanon, killing four civilians including three children.

When asked if the deaths meant Hezbollah would begin deliberately targeting Israeli civilians, Qassem offered an enigmatic answer.

“What we will do you will see in the press, God willing,” he said with a slight smirk. “You can start counting and you will see whether or not our calculations are correct or not.”

Militant groups seemingly answered with rockets fired toward Haifa — the first since 2006 — and an attack on the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona, which had already been evacuated several weeks prior.

This eye-for-an-eye mentality threatens to drastically expand a conflict that has so far wrought massive destruction but remained largely contained.

“If [Israel and America] continue in their aggression in this way and escalate this aggression and leave a negative impact that is larger than what is currently happening now,” Qassem warned, “it will increase the situation and will lead to a complete confrontation.”


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