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The Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah called late Saturday on Hamas to "defeat Israel and kill as many Israeli soldiers as they can."

"Hamas will defeat Israel in the ground attack," Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah told his followers in Beirut's southern suburbs during the Shiite religious ceremony of Ashoura.

Nasrallah urged Hamas to inflict heavy losses on the Israeli soldiers who launched a ground operation in the Gaza Strip after eight days of attacks by air and sea on the region.

"It is by inflicting the biggest possible losses on the Israeli enemy during the ground confrontation that (Hamas) will win the battle," Nasrallah told an Ashoura gathering.

"It is when they kill soldiers and destroy tanks that the course of the battle will be determined."

Nasrallah addressed his followers through a giant television in Beirut's southern suburbs, hotbed of the militant group.

Israeli leaders said late Saturday that they are watching movements at the Lebanese border and will be ready to confront any Hezbollah actions.

Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, has close links with Hamas.