For the first time the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group admitted Monday that the influential militant group has 100,000 trained fighters.
Hassan Nasrallah revealed the number of personnel of the militant wing of the Shiite group in his first speech since seven people were killed in a gun battle on the streets of the capital Beirut last Thursday (14/10).
The confrontation stems from dissatisfaction with a long-running investigation into a massive explosion in Beirut’s port last year that killed more than 215 people.
It is difficult to verify the number of personnel of the militant group which is sufficiently secretive. But if Nasrallah’s figures are correct, they are larger than the Lebanese armed forces, which are estimated at 85,000.
Hezbollah and its allies have criticized the judge presiding over the investigation, and called for his immediate removal.
The hours-long clashes last Thursday involved automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades on the streets of Beirut.
This clash was the most severe confrontation the city has seen in recent years. Thursday’s incident resembled the 1975-1990 civil war that took place in Lebanon.
In his speech, Nasrallah also accused the head of the far-right Christian Party of trying to foment civil war in the small country.
Nasrallah accused Sair Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese forces, of “planning” last week’s clashes in Tayuneh Beirut, and described them as “criminals and murderers.”
“The real program that the Lebanese Forces will carry out is (starting) a civil war,” he added, “and the biggest threat to social peace in Lebanon is the Lebanese Forces” themselves.
Speaking to Geagea, Nasrallah said “I want to tell you that you miscalculated. Just like the miscalculations that happen in all your wars, where you lose.”
Until now, Geagea has not given any response. (em / jm)