BEIRUT (Dispatches) -- Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah says Lebanese national resistance movement has never been stronger, with 100,000 trained fighters, days after Lebanon witnessed its worst street violence in over a decade.
Seven people were killed on Thursday when militias led by Western- and Israeli-backed politician Samir Geagea fired at protesters from the Hezbollah and Amal groups.
Nasrallah lashed out at the Christian Lebanese Forces party and Geagea, saying they were responsible for the killings.
“The real agenda of the Lebanese Forces is civil war,” Nasrallah said in a live televised speech.
“I advise the Lebanese Forces and its head to give up on this idea of civil war and internal strife completely,” he said. “Your calculations are wrong ... the region has never seen Hezbollah as strong as now.”
Gunfire erupted in Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahiya, Hezbollah’s stronghold, to celebrate the start of Nasrallah’s speech.
The bloodshed on Thursday, which stirred memories of the 1975-1990 civil war, added to fears for the stability of a country that is suffering a severe economic meltdown.
Nasrallah said the U.S. is also trying to provoke an internal conflict in Lebanon in the same way it did in many other nations, but stressed that the scheme will not succeed.
He warned that in the event of a military conflict, neither the occupying regime of Israel, nor the U.S. or Saudi Arabia would come to the help of any warring side.
Nasrallah said the violence was a dangerous development and marked a new phase in the country’s internal politics, and added that Hezbollah was not the enemy of Lebanese Christians.
“The biggest threat to the Christian presence in Lebanon is the Lebanese Forces party and its head,” Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah dedicated a significant part of his speech to reassure Lebanon’s Christians, saying Hezbollah was protecting their rights and is allied with the largest Christian party, the Free Patriotic Movement.
The majority of the fatalities last Thursday were members of Amal and Hezbollah, who have been demanding the removal of Tarek Bitar, the lead investigator in an investigation into the August 4, 2020 Beirut port explosion, over his politicization of the case.
Amal and Hezbollah have accused the Lebanese Forces party of ambushing the protest heading to the Palace of Justice on Thursday morning, calling for Bitar’s replacement.
The protesters also accuse Bitar of “bias” for subpoenaing several former ministers affiliated with Amal.
“What happened showed the Lebanese people the truth behind what these groups are doing in terms of trying to ignite internal strife and national division and threaten civic peace, and push the Lebanese back to the era of civil wars,” Amal said in a statement.
Amal, which is led by Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, one of the most powerful political figures in the country, urged the authorities to arrest all those responsible for the violence.
The LF and Geagea are known for their close affiliation to the West and Saudi Arabia, a country that has sought to increase its sway in Lebanon mainly to block the rise of Hezbollah.
Geagea was tried and convicted in 1994 for ordering four political assassinations, including the assassination of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rashid Karami in 1987, and the unsuccessful attempted assassination of Defense Minister Michel Murr in 1991.
The inquiry into the August 4, 2020 explosion, which killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of Beirut, has made little headway amid pushback from political factions.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati told the Al Modon newspaper on Monday that the government would not meet unless an agreement is reached concerning the investigation.
Mikati also said he was not planning to resign at the moment, adding that “the country can’t be left in circumstances like this”.