BEIRUT (Reuters) – Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday it was only a matter of time before the group killed an Israeli soldier to avenge the death of one its fighters in Syria and that it would not be drawn into clashes on the Lebanon-Israel frontier.
Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah last fought a war in 2006, and tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border have been running high after the Shi’ite movement said one of its members was killed in an apparent Israeli air strike in July in Syria.
“Israel needs to understand that when they kill one of our mujahideen, we will kill one of their soldiers. This is the equation,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
“We will not engage in exchanges of fire … because this is what Israel wants,” he said. “They know that we are not looking for a publicity achievement, but that we are looking for soldiers to kill and they are hiding them like rats.”
Earlier this week the Israeli military struck what it said were Hezbollah posts after shots were fired at troops in Israel, which Nasrallah on Sunday denied. Last month, Israel said the group carried out an infiltration attempt, a charge it denied.
No casualties were reported on either side in the incidents.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah would not be drawn into clashes that would “waste the blood of our martyrs and our equation”.
After two Hezbollah members were killed in Damascus in 2019, Nasrallah vowed the group would respond if Israel killed any more Hezbollah fighters inside Syria, where they deployed as part of Iranian-backed efforts to support President Bashar al-Assad in a war that spiralled out of 2011 anti-government protests.
Israel has stepped up strikes on Syria in recent months in what Western intelligence sources say is a shadow war, approved by Washington, that has undermined Iran’s military power in the region without triggering a major increase in hostilities.
(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Ghaida Ghantous, Editing by William Maclean and Nick Macfie)