Shiites Mark Ashura as Nasrallah Plays Down Israeli Threats

Shiites held Ashura processions on Tuesday in Beirut's southern suburbs and several towns in southern and eastern Lebanon as Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah dismissed Israeli threats as a source of concern.

“Israel's threats of another war on Lebanon do not stem from its power because it has lost hope and is concerned,” Nasrallah said in a televised address to hundreds of thousands of Shiites gathered in Beirut's southern suburbs following the Ashura march.

On the contrary, “the resistance is a real threat to Israel,” he said.

Nasrallah reiterated that Hizbullah “is fully ready in southern Lebanon” despite the presence of the party's fighters in Syria.

The Hizbullah secretary-general stressed that the developments in Syria and the region made the party more confident about its “right” choices.

Hizbullah fighters have gone to join Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces in their battle against Sunni rebels, drawing anger at home from Lebanon's Sunnis and stoking Sunni-Shiite tensions.

“We are part of the confrontation against the biggest danger facing the region. We have the honor to be part of the victory that will be achieved,” Nasrallah said.

“Takfiris have no future and their plan has no life,” he added.

This year's Ashura was held amid a rising threat by jihadists from al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group.

The militants' threat first came to Lebanon in August, two months after the IS's summer blitz in which it seized large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. In a surprise attack, IS and al-Nusra fighters crossed over from Syria and overran the border town of Arsal.

They took with them hostages from the army and police and later executed three of them.

The tension between Shiites and Sunnis led to the rise of Jihadi recruitment in impoverished Sunni areas of northern Lebanon. Last month, militants clashed with the army in the northern city of Tripoli and nearby areas.

The army contained the gunbattles and arrested scores of gunmen but is still carrying out raids to clamp down on the extremists who have fled.

Nasrallah hailed those who braved the rain and marked Ashura, which commemorates the 7th-century death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad revered by Shiites.

The processions were held amid tight security because of concerns of attacks by the extremists.

In his televised address, Nasrallah accused “the Zionists of taking advantage of the Islamic world's turmoil to reach their objectives.”

He was referring to the building of more Israeli settlements and the closure of al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem last week.

“The Arab League should take a decisive stance from it,” Nasrallah said.

Also Tuesday, the deputy head of the Higher Shiite Islamic Council, Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan, urged the Lebanese to “back the army and confront takfiris."



Source: Agence France Presse, Naharnet

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