Hezbollah leader vows bloody retaliation for US killing of Iranian general

Supporters of Shiite Hezbollah movement hold posters of slain Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani as the movement's leader Hasan Nasrallah delivers a speech on a screen, in the Lebanese capital Beirut's southern suburbs on January 5, 2020. Anwar Amro, AFP
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Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday the US military in the Middle East would pay the price for killing Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, which he said marked ‘the start of a new phase’ for the region.

Nasrallah, speaking in a televised address marking Soleimani’s death in a targeted US air strike, said responding to the killing was not only Iran’s responsibility but the responsibility of its allies in the region too.

As thousands listened at a rally in the southern suburbs of Beirut, the Hezbollah leader said the US killing of Soleimani marked “the start of a new phase and new history not just for Iran or Iraq but the whole region”. He called the killing a “clear, blatant crime” that will transform the Middle East.

Nasrallah said attacks on the US military presence in the Middle East would be “fair punishment” for Soleimani’s killing, listing US bases, naval ships and military personnel as possible targets.

Nasrallah urged Iraq to free itself from US “occupation”, moments before the country’s parliament passed a resolution urging the government to expel foreign troops from the country, notably those of the US-led coalition.

Founded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in 1982, Hezbollah is a critical part of an Iranian-backed regional military alliance.

The United States has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

“When the coffins of American soldiers and officers begin to be transported … to the United States, [US President Donald] Trump and his administration will realise that they have really lost the region and will lose the elections,” Nasrallah said, referring to the 2020 US presidential election.

Nasrallah said such an approach would force the United States to withdraw from the Middle East “humiliated, defeated and in terror … as they left in the past”.

Nasrallah said that suicide bombers that had forced America to leave the region in the past are still there and greater in number than before, reported Reuters. He added that Hezbollah and its allies should not target US civilians, however.

Sunday’s comments were Nasrallah’s first public statements since Soleimani was killed by a US airstrike in Iraq Friday.

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