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Hezbollah Leader Promises More Attacks on Israel

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

As Sunday turns to Monday in the Mideast, witnesses say Israeli airstrikes hit the Lebanese city of Tripoli and other targets along the Mediterranean Coast near Beirut. Earlier Sunday, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah broadcast a televised statement, promising further surprises for Israel.

Earlier we spoke to NPR's Ivan Watson in Beirut. I asked him about the Hezbollah leader's remarks.

IVAN WATSON reporting:

When his pre-taped speech was aired on Hezbollah's TV station, you could hear the speech echoing through the empty streets of Beirut from Lebanese TVs and radios all across the city.

Let's take a minute to hear him speak.

Sheikh HASSAN NASRALLAH: (Foreign language spoken)

WATSON: Now, this was another defiant statement from the man who has led the fight against Israel here. He said that after the Israeli bombing campaign, after days of bombing, Hezbollah still has complete strength and power. He says that its arsenal of rockets is still intact. He says that Hezbollah had no choice but to attack Haifa today, that Israeli port. He's saying that it was forced to do this by what he called Israel's attacks on Lebanese civilians, and he added, quote, as long as the enemy acts without limitations, it is our right to act similarly.

He denied Israeli accusations that Iranian special forces have been helping Hezbollah, and he promised to continue taking Israel by surprise as Hezbollah did when it hit an Israeli warship several days ago killing four sailors and when it reached Haifa this morning with long-range rockets.

ELLIOTT: Can you tell us about the diplomatic efforts underway in Beirut?

WATSON: A top diplomat from the European Union, Javier Solana, is here meeting with the Lebanese prime minister. Recall that last night, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, whose weak and divided government has little to no control over Hezbollah, he called for an immediate United Nations-brokered cease fire last night.

And a U.N. delegation is also here. Its leader said it supported this cease-fire proposal but also called for the release of the two Israeli soldiers whose capture by Hezbollah prompted this crisis last Tuesday.

ELLIOTT: Ivan, what is the situation there now? Have there been continued Israeli attacks?

WATSON: As we're speaking, we hear, periodically, distant rumbles from what I presume are Israeli air strikes. We do hear planes overhead periodically, and within the last hour, we saw once again Israeli aircraft bombing fuel depots near the Beirut airport that sent showers of sparks up into the air. And that fuel depot, that area, has already been burning for several days already.

There have been repeated attacks against southern Beirut, the traditional Hezbollah stronghold, predominantly Shiite Muslim, densely packed community there. The Hezbollah TV station was hit. We saw it flickering, and its signal weakened today.

There have been civilian casualties, as you mentioned earlier. Eight Canadians, probably dual citizens, Lebanese-Canadians killed in southern Lebanon today, and a United Nations peacekeeper was injured by Israeli shelling on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Ivan Watson in Beirut.

Thank you so much.

WATSON: You're welcome, Debbie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ivan Watson
Ivan Watson is currently based in Istanbul, Turkey. Following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, he has served as one of NPR's foreign "firemen," shuttling to and from hotspots around the Middle East and Central Asia.