Beyond Haifa: Nasrallah Threatens ‘Phase Two’

On Tuesday night July 25, Hasan Nasrallah gave a speech on al-Manar TV, the satellite station of Hizbullah. It was the fifth time he addressed the Lebanese since the war started July 12. Nasrallah looked calm, confident, and defiant when he announced that Phase Two of the war against Israel had started. During Phase One he had promised to bomb Haifa, the third-largest city in Israel, and he did. He also bombed Kiryat Shmona, Acre, Safad, Tiberias, and the Biblical city of Nazareth. The State of Israel had not witnessed similar attacks on its cities since the start of the Arab-Israeli Conflict in 1948. In all, Phase One resulted in the death of 42 Israelis and 418 Lebanese.

Now Nasrallah called for bombing what is "beyond Haifa." His words were meant to show that, contrary to what the Israelis have been saying, he has not been weakened by two weeks of non-stop Israeli bombing. The al-Dahiyyieh suburb of Beirut, where Hizbullah is strong, has been flattened by Israeli missiles, and many cities and towns in South Lebanon have also been destroyed. Over 700,000 Lebanese lack basic necessities and around 70,000 have fled to neighboring Syria. But they are mostly women and children from South Lebanon. A tour of the refugee camps in Syria shows very few Lebanese refugees aged 18-25. Most of the able young men stayed behind and are working with Hizbullah to combat the Israelis.

Judging by Nasrallah's promise to strike further into the Israeli heartland and his smiling face in recent interviews, including one with the Doha-based al-Jazeera TV, Nasrallah appears undaunted by the Israeli attacks. One reason for his defiance is that Nasrallah finds himself in a difficult position before the Lebanese street. When the war started he promised he would not release the two captured Israeli soldiers unless Tel Aviv releases Lebanese prisoners from Israeli jails. That has not happened. If Nasrallah balks now, his Lebanese supporters would ask: What has Nasrallah led us into? In one of his interviews, Nasrallah speculated that if he ceased fighting now he would be considered a traitor for having brought about the destruction of Lebanon. To avoid that scenario, Nasrallah has to continue fighting.

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