Nasrallah News Conference
Update 4: Israel shelling Beirut from the sea in a nighttime attack. UN Security Council convenes in emergency session.
Update 3: In a country of ethnic enclaves, why bomb Beirut to punish the southern Shi'ites? The billion dollar highway tunnel built by Rafic Hariri connecting Beirut Airport to the city was destroyed, as well as two landing strips at the airport. Olmert has threated to bomb the Beirut-Damascus Highway, chock full of civilian automobiles, busses and trucks fleeing the country. Israel has bombed the Lebanese Army, the only entity Lebanon has to deploy to rein in Hezbollah, at Koleat and in the Bekaa Valley.
Update 2: Thousands of tourists fleeing through Syria. Israel imposes naval blocade on Lebanese ports.
Update: Israel has destroyed all bridges linking Southern Lebanon with the north of the country. In an act of senseless overreaction, Olmert destroyed Beirut Airport. He also ordered the destruction of South Lebanon's power generation plant and shot up highways where motorists died an unexpected death. Naturally news crews got shot up, too. The Israelis then launched airstrikes in the area of Nabatyeh, Tyre and Zahrani.
Translated from an article by reporter Scarlett Hadad of L'Orient-Le Jour.
If the general atmosphere was one of joy in the immediate Hezbollah entourage, with exchanges of congratuations among militants and supporters, sayyed Hassan Nasrallah was quite sober before reporters and aware of the gravity of the situation and his responsibilities to Lebanon. Courteous and taking questions, sayyed Nasrallah hoped to send a message of confidence to the population while affirming that as far as Hezbollaah was concerned, it has achieved its objectives in taking two Israeli soldiers hostage. He is now prepared to start indirect negotiations toward a prisoner exchange. But if the Israelis choose confrontation, we are prepared to go as far as necessary and they risk some nasty surprises, affirmed sayyed Nasrallah.
While affirming that the Resistance acted on its own without informing the government, its allies or the army, sayyed Nasrallah explained that Hezbollah began planning the operation during the last prisoner exchange in January 2004 and had clearly announced the liberation of Lebanese detained in Israel as its priority. I myself said this on several occasions since the beginning of the year and for us, the plight of Lebanese prisoners is unconnected to any other issue", said the Secretary General of Hezbollah, who added that following the operation he had several contacts with Lebanese officials. His advisor for Political Affairs met with Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.
The sayyed, completely dressed in black, had a grim face but an assured tone when he spoke to reporters.
He began by thanking the Mujahedeen who carried operation "Kept Promise". According to Nasrallah, Hezbollah fighters had been preparing for this operation over a long period of time. They had been surveiling the area for five months and it was only yesterday that they were able to achieve their objective of taking two Israeli soldiers for a later prisoner exchange with the Jewish state. Beseiged by reporters, sayyed Nasrallah refused to release any details concerning the operation and was content to say only that the place where the kidnapping took place was unimportant. If our Mujahedeen penetrated just a few meters inside occupied territory does not matter because we are in a confrontation, said the sayyed, who neither confirmed nor denied that the operation took place inside Israeli territory.
The Secretary-General of Hezbollah rejected accusations that his organization was plunging the country, and perhaps the region, into war. This is our rationale that has prevailed since 1982: do nothing to plunge the country into war. But the fact is that war has never left our country and the region, said Nasralla, who also underscored the fact that there had never been unanimity concerning the Resistance in Lebanon in 1982 or later. From our point of view, he said, our action is consistent with the ministerial decree. Now we know that the government and the authorites in general are under enormous pressure from the international community. But we hope Prime Minister Fuad Siniora will act as his predecessor Rafic Hariri did in 1996; Hariri moved heaven and earth to defend the Resistance during Operation "Grapes of Wrath".
Nasrallah insisted that Hezbollah did not want an escalation or war, but simply to oblige the Israelis to conduct a prisoner exchange. Nasralllah affirmed that the decision to carry out the operation was decided well before the recent events in Gaza, but he recognized that the timing could have a positive effect on the plight of the Palestians in Gaza and in the Occupied Territories.
The Hezbollah Secretary General also firmly discounted an Israeli advance into Lebanese territory. They attempted a breakthrough in the al-Raheb sector, near Aïta el-Shaab. We destroyed a Merkava with its crew, he underscored. The Israelis then requested a ceasefire to remove their wounded. We replied that we wanted a global ceasefire. Nasrallah repeated that if Israel wanted to free their soldiers by bombing Lebanon, they were kidding themselves. They will only go home as part of a prisoner exchange, he declared. That is why Israeli military action will achieve nothing, unless the Israelis decide to make the whole of Lebanon pay for this operation. In that case, we are ready for the confrontaton and we shall go further than they think. Today's Lebanon is not the country of 1982 and the Resistance has changed. We have been preparing for a confrontation with Israel since May 26, 2000. I don't need to make any threats. We are sufficiently creditable.
Nasrallah asked Lebanese to put themselves in the position of the parents of prisoners held by Israel. Now is not the time for internal dissent. Once the situation cools down, then you can ask us questions or demand explanations. But today is a time for solidarity. I ask Lebanese to act responsibly and I hope no one will act so as to offer any excuse to Israel.
When asked about the positions of Syria and Iran, Nasrallah responded that they supported the Resistance. But I dont wait around for them to tell me what to do. The ball is in Israel's court. But Hezbollah is prepared for any eventuality.