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Israel-Hamas conflict: who is Hassan Nasrallah, the formidable leader of Lebanese Hezbollah

“We have been engaged in battle since October 8.

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Israel-Hamas conflict: who is Hassan Nasrallah, the formidable leader of Lebanese Hezbollah

“We have been engaged in battle since October 8.” In a highly anticipated filmed speech, held this Friday, November 3, the much-feared leader of Hezbollah confirmed for the first time the fears of Israel and the West: his movement officially supports Hamas and its terrorist attacks, which have hit Israel hard. last October 7. Since then, “the campaign has spread to more than one front,” he added, facing the camera. The rockets fired from southern Lebanon in recent weeks were therefore not the result of the will of isolated individuals, but rather of that of its Shiite armed force, whose involvement in the conflict could well set the region ablaze.

However, Hassan Nasrallah, 63, has not officially announced a ground offensive against Israel, contrary to what many observers expected. Wearing his usual black turban, the Shiite leader only raised the “realistic” possibility of “total war”. “We tell the enemy who might think of attacking Lebanon, or of carrying out a preventive operation, that it would be the biggest stupidity of its existence,” he declared during his televised speech, broadcast to dozens of people. thousands of his supporters in the southern suburbs of Beirut and other Lebanese regions. The leader of Hezbollah, gray beard and small glasses on his nose, took the opportunity to attack the United States. He thus accused America of being “entirely responsible for the ongoing war in Gaza”, believing that “Israel is only an instrument”. “America is preventing the ceasefire and stopping the aggression (...) We are ready (to face) your fleet, with which you threaten us,” he assured, while American ships were dispatched to the Mediterranean. He finally justified the Hamas terrorist attacks: “There is no more important campaign than the campaign against the Zionists. There is nothing more important than this campaign from a religious, moral and political point of view, from a human point of view.

An anti-Zionist discourse that has been stuck in his body for almost 50 years. After a childhood spent in east Beirut, Lebanon, at the age of fifteen, in 1975, he joined the Amal movement, a Shiite political and paramilitary organization, involved in the Lebanese civil war and strongly supported by the Iran. Amal intended at the time to fight against the Lebanese authorities who, according to the movement, did not prevent Israel from carrying out raids on the country, which sheltered fighters from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) striking the State Hebrew.

Even though he became the commander of one of Amal's brigades, Nasrallah left the organization in 1982 to join the new Hezbollah, when Israel had just invaded Lebanon to definitively put an end to Hezbollah's attacks. PLO. Hezbollah, also supported by Iran, then wishes to “liberate the country from Israeli occupation through armed struggle”. Throughout the decade, the young man would climb the ranks of the organization. It will thus be at its heart, while a series of attacks committed by the movement will plunge the region into mourning, such as that of April 1983, against the United States embassy in Beirut, which left 63 dead. He also took advantage of these years to also go to Iran, in order to perfect his religious education, received during his youth.

It was finally in 1992 that this son of a grocer took the helm of the Shiite movement, while his predecessor, Abbas Moussaoui, was killed by an Israeli missile. Due to his background, Nasrallah automatically becomes a target for the IDF. His armed group will then carry out frontal attacks against the Israeli army, thanks to logistical support from Iran. Successive IDF operations, such as the one called “Justice Served” in 1993, or “Grapes of Wrath” in 1996, failed to stop Hezbollah’s attacks. So much so that the Shiite movement is considered by its supporters as the main actor in the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Lebanon in 2000. Nasrallah will repeat his “success” during the Israeli-Lebanese conflict of 2006, which ended in a truce after 33 days of fighting between July 12 and August 14. Hezbollah will have lost hundreds of fighters, and Lebanon, a thousand civilians. Which will not prevent Nasrallah from establishing his authority.

Under his leadership, Hezbollah even managed to satisfy its political ambitions, by entering the Lebanese Parliament. Today, there are 13 deputies. Ministers from Hezbollah have also entered the government since 2006, such as that of Transport and that of Labor, currently in office.

Acting as a political figure, but also a religious one, Nasrallah has reportedly been living in a bunker since 2006. According to the Britannica encyclopedia, his reign is marked by populism, while the sixty-year-old has continued to insist on "the importance of Arab dignity and honor”, ​​avoiding any “intimidating” speech. Generally respected by the Arab world, the Lebanese population is divided over him, with some Lebanese idolizing him due to Hezbollah's economic influence in certain poor regions, and many others hating him for his religious and warlike aura. Nasrallah has also been accused in Lebanon of corruption and authoritarianism, notably in 2019, when he accused demonstrators denouncing the government's failure to fight the economic crisis of being "manipulated to serve regional political agendas and international,” according to France 24.

But there is no doubt that Nasrallah's latest speech - which was the subject of popular tribute songs by Lebanese artists in the 2000s - will allow him to embellish his image, already very popular in the Middle East. An August 2006 New York Times article reported that an Arab politician called him "the most powerful man in the Middle East" and "the only Arab leader who actually does what he says he does." he will do". For its part, Al-Jazeera compared him to Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. Revolutionary figures, who left hundreds of deaths in their wake. In Le Figaro, last month, Lebanese people already expressed their fear of being drawn into the Israel-Hamas war because of Hezbollah.

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