BEIRUT (AP) — The leader of the Shiite Lebanese militant group Hezbollah warned Israel against pushing the region into war on Sunday as supporters and other Shiite Muslims marked the Ashoura holiday with rallies, prayers, and self-flagellation.
Hassan Nasrallah told observers in a televised speech that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was working with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to undermine the Iran nuclear deal and start a regional war. He warned Israel not to underestimate Hezbollah’s capabilities.
“The current Israeli government, presided over by Netanyahu is leading its people to death and destruction,” he warned. “I can confirm that they do not have an accurate idea of what is waiting for them if they embark on this stupid war.”
It was his final sermon to the customary ten days of speeches addressing religious and political matters that lead up to Ashoura.
The somber holiday marks the killing of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, the Imam Hussein, by a rival Muslim faction in Karbala, present day Iraq, in 680 A.D. Hussein and his descendants are seen by Shiites as the rightful heirs to the prophet; his death is attributed with cementing the schism between Shiite and Sunni Islam.
Thousands of families attended Hezbollah’s main rally under fair skies in south Beirut, waving richly colored banners to commemorate Hussein’s martyrdom, and Palestine, a leading cause in Hezbollah’s political program. Children were adorned with the customary green and yellow ribbons that mark Hezbollah rallies. Posters picturing Nasrallah and Iranian Ayatollahs Ali Khamenei and Ruhollah Khomeini featured prominently in the march.
Hezbollah’s empowering and militant ideology, modeled after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, found a receptive ear among Shiites, a traditionally marginalized community in Lebanon. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have guided, financed, and equipped Hezbollah since establishing the group around 1982.
But when Nasrallah did not appear at…