Tue, 22 Jan 2019
11
Jerusalem

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the Lebanon-based militant group does not want war with Israel, but is prepared to go into battle "in any place and at any time."

Speaking to supporters via video link, Nasrallah was commemorating six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general killed in Syria January 18 in an Israeli airstrike, an attack he called an "assassination crime."

Hezbollah retaliated Wednesday with a rocket attack on an Israeli convoy along the disputed Lebanon/Israel border, killing two Israel soldiers. Israel responded with airstrikes and shelling.

A Spanish peacekeeper with the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon was also killed in Wednesday's exchange.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for Wednesday's flareup, the biggest escalation of fighting there since the 2006 war between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

Netanyanu said on Thursday Israel will continue to defend itself against all threats, "near and far alike."

The area features a set of tense borders, with the history of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, Hezbollah's backing by both Syria and Israeli rival Iran, and Hezbollah militants fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops in that country's civil war. The U.N. has peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon and in the Golan Heights as part of separate Security Council resolutions.

Despite the tensions, VOA's correspondent in Jerusalem reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, there would appear to be little interest in a wider conflict for either side.

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