Nasrallah: As We Mark the Palestinian Nakba, ISIS Is Leading a New One

In televised speech, Nasrallah dispels rumors of ill health, says he takes only lemonade, as group fights ISIS in key battle in Syria.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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A televised speech by Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, on April 17, 2015.
A televised speech by Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, on April 17, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave a nod to the Palestinian Nakba in a televised speech Saturday, but did not miss the chance to blast his group's rivals in Syria – the Islamic State group – which he said was leading the Arab world to a whole new catastrophe.

"While we mark the Nakba (catastrophe) of the Palestinian people, we are also dealing with a new nakba and that is the scheme by ISIS and its supporters who are trying to divide the (Muslim) nation," he said in his speech.

The leader of the Lebanese Shi'ite militia also attempted to dispel rumors that he was unwell, saying that he was not on any medication and was only "taking lemonade" to maintain his health.

Nasrallah gave a speech earlier this month, but was addressing supporters again to dispel the rumors. Hezbollah has been facing off against ISIS and the Al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front in a key and much anticipated battle over the Qalamoun Mountains in Syria.

According to Nassrallah, some 13 Hezbollah fighters were killed in the Qalamoun fighting "and any other numbers placing (casualties) in the tens were lies."

He added that the regime and its supporters had lost seven troops and that Hezbollah and the regime were poised to make a "big win" in Qalamoun. Media affiliated with Hezbollah and the embattled Syrian regime said Thursday that the two had taken a key hill in Qalamoun.

Hezbollah, a powerful militia with backing from Iran, has been a vital ally for Assad in the four-year-long conflict that has become a focal point for the struggle between Tehran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, which has backed the insurgency.

On Thursday, Hezbollah fighters and the army reportedly seized Talat Moussa, the highest peak in the area targeted in the offensive. Sources briefed on the situation said that move had effectively secured control of the entire area some 50 km from Damascus.

Syrian state TV credited the advance to the army and "the Lebanese resistance," an unusual public acknowledgement of Hezbollah's role in the battle for an area used by the insurgents to ferry supplies between Syria and Lebanon.

Hezbollah unleashed heavy firepower in the offensive, including concentrated rocket bombardments. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group that tracks the conflict, says this had forced many insurgents to withdraw.

The offensive had been expected for some time but was awaiting the end of winter and aimed to crush one of the risks facing Assad, who has lost much of the north and east in the war estimated by the United Nations to have killed 220,000 people.

Reuters contributed to this report

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