Lebanese Hezbollah leader says group stronger than ever

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said on Tuesday his group was stronger than ever and would “very soon” celebrate victory in Syria, where it has been fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad.

Nasrallah was speaking on live television to mark the anniversary of a 2006 war it fought with Israel, which regards Iran as its biggest foe and Hezbollah as the top threat on its borders.

“The resistance in Lebanon today, in its possession of weapons and equipment and capabilities and members and cadres and ability and expertise and experience, and also of faith and determination and courage and will, is stronger than at any time since its launch in the region,” Nasrallah said.

Israel has repeatedly struck Hezbollah in Syria, where the group and its Iranian ally have played a key military role in fighting rebels alongside Assad’s forces, backed by massive Russian air power.

Assad now holds most of Syria, although a swathe of the northwest remains in rebel hands and U.S.-backed Kurdish forces control the quarter of the country east of the Euphrates river.

Israel has told Iran it must quit Syria, and said last year it had carried out air strikes there to stop Iranian weapons shipments to Hezbollah.

Assad and his allies last month recaptured the area bordering the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, while avoiding a wider escalation involving Israel, Iran and Hezbollah.

Concerns about such an escalation rose sharply in May, when Israel said it had launched its heaviest barrage since the Syrian war began in 2011 at Iranian targets in the country, prompting retaliatory rocket fire in the following days.

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