On 29 October 2023, multiple news outlets in Lebanon and internationally announced that Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah will deliver a speech on Friday 3 November 2023 at 1500B (1300Z) Hrs in Ashura Square, Beirut. LH reportedly also sent a message to the US with a deadline of Thursday night (2 November 2023) stating that the Americans need to stop supporting Israel and compel the IDF to leave Gaza. Large crowds also reportedly gathered in Tehran and Baghdad to watch the broadcast of Nasrallah’s speech. 

Al-Jarida (a Kuwait-based) newspaper quoted an informed Iranian source as saying, “The Iranian Supreme National Security Council approved, in a meeting on Tuesday night - Wednesday, a proposal by the commander of the Quds Force in the Revolutionary Guard, Ismail Qaani, to increase Tehran’s allies’ escalation against Israel and the United States on all fronts in the region.” This is likely intended to attempt to force the US and Israel to enact a ceasefire in Gaza and a cessation of the ground invasion. The same source stated that “Qaani had stressed, during the Supreme Council meeting, that if Iran’s allies among the resistance factions did not enter the battle to support the Palestinian people, then these factions could lose their credibility and their audiences, and Tehran would lose the Islamic popular support that it won after the 7 October attack."

Video reportedly showing LH supporters gathering before Nasrallah’s speech in Beirut. Source: @JoeTruzman  

The Speech

The speech stated that the LH reaction to the 7 October attacks started on 8 October 2023 in solidarity with the forces of Hamas. Nasrallah has also stated that the activity on the Southern Lebanese border may not constitute a full attack on Israel, however it is having a significant effect (likely implying that LH activity is fixing IDF elements and preventing their deployment to Gaza). Nasrallah says that LH are waging a “full battle” against the IDF, attacking military targets in the West Bank, Sheba’a Farms and along the Lebanese border (referred to as “northern occupied Palestine”). He also stated that Hamas conducted the 7 October attacks independently and without outside interference or instruction, showing that they were a viable organisation in their own right, and have the ability to act in their own best interests.  

Reporting that the LH involvement began on Oct 8. Source: @astriaintel

Nasrallah holds the US responsible for the Israeli activity in Gaza and for the persecution of Muslims across the Middle East. He portrayed both the US and IDF as weak and ineffective, whilst praising the success and activity of Hamas and other ‘martyrs’ in Lebanon, Gaza, the West bank and other areas. He has portrayed the 7 October attacks and subsequent actions as truly successful and having struck fear into Israel and the US, and their response has been limited due to that fear. He says that the threat from US airstrikes against LH personnel in Lebanon are not a deterrent, and the US is afraid to conduct attacks anyway. Whilst stopping short of declaring a “full mobilisation” and general warfare against Israel, Nasrallah said that “all options are on the table, all the time….  And that they should be prepared for all possibilities in the future…”

Nasrallah threatened the US forces in the Mediterranean, Levant and Middle East – both naval and ground units, saying that they are all vulnerable to attack unless Israel and the US “end the aggression” against Gaza and the Palestinian people. He also referenced the US “defeats” in Lebanon in the 1980s, and more recently in Afghanistan, and says that the “Resistance” prevailed then, and will prevail again in this instance. 

LH Possible Actions

Nasrallah stopped short of calling for ‘General Mobilisation’ for LH at this time, however there are multiple options for escalation, including but not limited to:

  • Increased recruiting and equipping of militants.
  • Large-scale rocket attacks against targets in Israel (both military and civilian) intended to overwhelm the Iron Dome missile defence system.
  • Raids into northern Israel and the West Bank to destroy and disrupt Israeli Defence Forces’ (IDF) troop concentrations and frustrate any IDF offensive action.
  • Possible Cyber-attacks against Israel’s digital infrastructure alongside a co-ordinated information operation to portray LH as defenders of the Muslim faith.
  • Increased and more overt co-operation with Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Quds Force (IRGC-QF) enablers, trainers and logistics personnel to ensure a sustainable operation.

There was a clear distinction in the speech between local (Gaza and West Bank) and regional (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon) activities, however Nasrallah did not specify any immediate activity or escalations and instead adopted a threatening tone without committing to a specified course of action.

So What?

It is highly likely that in spite of increased aggressive rhetoric from Iran/the IRGC, Nasrallah only gave a speech today in order to galvanise his supporters and cement his leadership role in Hezbollah and in support of the Palestinian people. Nasrallah and LH have been generally very quiet regarding their stance and the situation in the region since 7 October and this speech was likely intended more to reinforce their standpoint and to show support to Hamas and the Palestinian diaspora in Lebanon, rather than to commit LH lives to the conflict or to launch a major offensive against Israel, likely because of the realisation that in spite of his words Israel and the US could quickly inflict considerable damage to LH troops and infrastructure which may take years to recover from. It remains to be seen how Quds Force/Qaani and the Iranian government will react to this lack of concrete commitment and kinetic activity from LH, and whether they apply additional pressure to the group to conduct more widespread attacks against Israel. Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria are highly likely to increase attacks against US and western locations within their areas of operation. 

Rocket attacks by LH against Israel are likely to endure in the short term. Source: @TracTerrorism

What Next?

It is a realistic possibility that as the IDF clearance operation in Gaza drags on, LH will need to be seen to increase their physical attacks against the IDF in order to continue to fix forces in the north (preventing redeployment to Gaza) and in order to maintain popular support both in Lebanon and from their patrons in Tehran. Attacks by Shia militia groups in Iraq and Syria against US and coalition forces are likely to continue and will highly likely provoke a US response from the Carrier Strike Groups operating in the Mediterranean Sea – likely in the form of strikes against PMF/militia bases, command and control, and weapons caches. 

Uncorroborated report from unnamed US source stating that there may be additional rocket attacks against US forces in Iraq in the near future. Source: @themacrostory

In the immediate term, LH are likely to continue relatively small-scale rocket attacks against Israel without depleting their arsenal through massed barrages designed to inflict large numbers of casualties. Raids and guided-missile attacks against IDF outposts and troops on Israel’s northern border are also likely to endure, with possible raids and snatch operations conducted in order to demonstrate capability and willingness to fight Israel. LH and Hamas are likely to continue their information operations and influence campaigns to garner local and international political and popular support for calls for an IDF cease-fire and withdrawal from Gaza. 

It is highly likely that Iran will conduct covert talks with LH/Nasrallah regarding the speech and the commitment to attacking Israel and supporting the Palestinian people against Israeli reprisals for the 7 October attacks.