Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah vowed on Wednesday that his guerrilla fighters would begin firing rockets deeper into Israel, beyond the northern port of Haifa, and said the Jewish state's two-week-long military offensive against Lebanon was linked to a US-Israeli plan for "a new Middle East." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who just concluded the first American diplomatic foray in the region since the fighting began July 12, had said there was no place in "a new Middle East" for Hezbollah or other Islamist groups bent on Israel's destruction. Nasrallah said his organization was ready to discuss an end to the fighting, but the dignity and national interest of Lebanon was what he termed a "red line," a reference to the heavy Israeli bombing and ground assaults on the country.
"There is no way that we can accept any humiliating conditions on us, our people or our country...especially after all these sacrifices. ... We are open to political discussions and solutions with flexibility, but the dignity and national interest is a red line."
Nasrallah, speaking on Hezbollah's al-Manar television, also said Israel would have attacked his forces in southern Lebanon by October but lost the element of surprise and were forced to move early after his guerrilla forces captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid two weeks ago. Eight Israeli soldiers died in the attack. "In an American and Zionist assessment, there are obstacles to a new Middle East. In the new Middle East, the Palestinian cause should be liquidated," Nasrallah said in a televised speech aired also aired on Lebanese and Arab satellite channels early Wednesday. "In the new Middle East, there is no place for any resistance movement. The resistance movements in Palestine and Lebanon must be eliminated," Nasrallah added, referring to Hamas, fellow Islamic militants fighting in the Gaza Strip.
The bearded Shiite Muslim cleric also said Israel could not win a ground war against his guerrilla fighters, who would continue firing rockets into Israel no matter how far north Israeli forces penetrated into Lebanon.
"The goal of the incursion to prevent the rocketing of the settlements will not be achieved," he said. "The rocketing will continue no matter what the incursion is. We are ready for a ground confrontation. We will have the upper hand in a ground confrontation. We will recover any land occupied by the enemy," Nasrallah said.