The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah’s group made a rare public appearance at a Beirut rally on Tuesday to mark the Muslim holy day of Ashoura.
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has rarely been seen in public since his Shia Muslim group battled Israel in a monthlong war in 2006, fearing Israeli assassination. Since then, he has communicated with his followers and gives news conference mostly via satellite link.
But on Tuesday, the black-turbaned Nasrallah was seen walking through a throng of people in a southern Shiite stronghold in Beirut and then greeted crowds from the podium.
“I wanted to be with you for few minutes ... to renew our pledge and for the world to hear us,” Nasrallah said. His public appearance, he said, was a message to those who believe they can “threaten us,” he added.
His appearance is meant to portray confidence at a time of upheaval in West Asia and particularly in Syria, which along with Iran is Hezbollah’s backer.
Syrians and Arabs around the region have in recent years elevated Nasrallah to the status of a nationalist hero after his guerrillas’ 2006 war with Israel.Since the Syrian uprising, however, Syrians have unleashed their anger at Hezbollah over its blunt support for the regime of President Bashar Assad. Some protesters in Syria have set fire to the yellow flag of Hezbollah and pictures of Nasrallah.