The Hezbollah chief in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, gave a speech for the first time since the Israel-Hamas war began almost a month ago. Hezbollah is the most powerful in the so-called Axis of Resistance, a group of Iran-aligned actors allied with Hamas who have escalated attacks on Israel and American troops in recent weeks, raising fears of regional spillover. Simona Foltyn reports from Beirut.
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Israeli ground forces are still pushing deeper into Gaza tonight, as that government rejects calls for a cease-fire. Video from the Israeli military showed soldiers in close-quarter combat today with Hamas fighters. The army said it has encircled Gaza City,.And airstrikes blasted more targets above and below ground.
Meantime, Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived for meetings with Israeli leaders after President Biden had called for a humanitarian pause in the fighting.
Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State: With regard to humanitarian causes, again, we see this as a way of further facilitating the ability to get assistance in. We see it as a way also, and very importantly, of creating a better environment in which hostages can be released.
Secretary Blinken also warned the Palestinians will never be partners for peace, he says, if they are consumed by a humanitarian catastrophe.
But after meeting with Blinken, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected any halt in the Israeli offensive.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister (through interpreter):
I made it clear we continue with all the power, and that Israel refuses a temporary cease-fire that doesn't include a return of our hostages.
Also today, Gazan authorities said Israel attacked an ambulance, killing and wounding a number of people. Israel said Hamas fighters were using the ambulance and that the strike killed some of them.
Meantime, in his first speech since the Israel-Hamas war started, the head of Hezbollah in Lebanon suggested the militant group does not want to widen the war, but left open the possibility of escalating its ongoing conflict with Israel. Hezbollah is aligned with Iran and has ramped up attacks on Israel and U.S. troops in recent weeks, raising fears of regional spillover.
Simona Foltyn has this report from Beirut.
In Southern Beirut, thousands of Hezbollah supporters gathered to hear their leader, Hassan Nasrallah, speak. They and many in this region hung on every word, carefully listening for warnings of impending escalation.
But Nasrallah's tone was relatively measured. He called for a cease-fire in Gaza and drew a line, at least for now, for Hezbollah's involvement.
Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah Leader (through interpreter):
There are two goals today. The first is to stop the aggression on Gaza, and the second is for the Palestinian resistance to be victorious in Gaza, and for Hamas in particular to be victorious.
Nasrallah said the October 7 attack was planned and carried out by Hamas alone in response to the worsening situation for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, including killings, arrests, the expansion of settlements and the siege on Gaza.
Hassan Nasrallah (through interpreter):
The Palestinians have suffered for 75 years, but the last years have been very harsh for Palestinians under Netanyahu's extremist government.
In light of this injustice, some are disappointed that Arab nations haven't taken a stronger stance against Israel.
Hassan Gharib traveled here from Lebanon's southern border, where Hezbollah has lost around 50 fighters in cross-border attacks with Israel since October 7.
Hassan Gharib, Hezbollah Supporter (through interpreter):
We came here to stand with Gaza and Hamas, to help them prevail and to say that not all Arab nations will disappoint them. No, we are the resistance, and we stand with Palestine.
Stand with Palestine, but not fight on its behalf.
Nasrallah's speech was not the call to battle some might have expected. In fact, he said that Hezbollah was already part of the war, referring to ongoing clashes between the Israeli army and Hezbollah along Lebanon's southern border. There is a sense here that Hezbollah does not want to escalate the conflict to a regional level and drag Lebanon into a full-scale war.
Lebanon has been at war with Israel several times before. Dr. Tarek Charaf was a child when he was injured in the 1982 war, and says his country simply can't afford another.
Dr. Tarek Charaf, Lebanese Citizen:
Lebanon is not in a position. It cannot allow itself to go into war. No matter what happens in the war, even if Hezbollah wins that war, Lebanon will lose.
Over recent years, the country has reeled from a crippling economic and financial crisis, leading to an almost complete collapse of the state.
Dr. Tarek Charaf:
Because there is no state, and Hezbollah is instilling itself as the protectors of Lebanon, even the Lebanese who are against Hezbollah, when you push them to the corner and they have no other solution, they say, yes, we'd rather have Hezbollah than the Israelis.
For now, Nasrallah has lowered the temperature in a war that risks setting the entire region fire. But he also warned that all options remain on the table, should Israel not de-escalate its bombardment of Gaza.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Simona Foltyn in Beirut.