BEIRUT — The leader of Hezbollah warned Israel on Friday that the Shiite movement was unafraid of war, just days after intense clashes in the border zone raised fears that a major conflict could erupt.
Hasan Nasrallah told supporters that his movement carefully planned the missile strike Wednesday that killed two Israeli soldiers. In the televised speech, he described the attack as retaliation for an alleged Israeli raid Jan. 18 in southern Syria that killed six Hezbollah militants and an Iranian general — an act that he called an “assassination.”
“The Israelis must understand very well that this resistance is not deterred,” he said, before warning Israel directly: “You tried us. Don’t try us again.”
Wednesday’s attack prompted an exchange of fire that also killed a Spanish U.N. peacekeeper.
In 2006, the two sides fought a 34-day war along the Lebanon-Israel border that left more than 1,000 Lebanese and 165 Israelis dead.
Since Wednesday, there have been no further hostilities reported. But Nasrallah said that while Hezbollah does not seek a new conflict, its fighters are prepared.
“We are not afraid of war. We will fight this war. We will achieve victory, God willing,” he said, labeling Israel a “tumor, a terrorist state, a hostile entity, a bacteria of corruption.”
There was no immediate reaction to the speech by Israel.
Nasrallah’s speech comes as Hezbollah militants are fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war in the neighboring country. Although the Lebanese group does not disclose figures on casualties sustained in Syria, analysts say hundreds of its fighters have been killed there.
Hezbollah, which was founded in the turmoil that followed the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, appears to be facing significant stress because of its Syria deployment.
“The main objective of Nasrallah’s speech is obviously to lift the morale and feeling of his supporters and fighters,” said Mustafa Allouch, a former Lebanese parliamentarian and critic of Hezbollah. He said the fighting in Syria had made the group “much weaker.”
But others see the group’s huge arsenal of rockets and trained fighters as a growing issue for Israel. Mohammed Obeid, a Lebanese analyst who is close to Hezbollah, said the Nasrallah speech indicated that the group is ready to expand the fight with Israel into Syria.
“He wanted to make it clear that if the resistance came under any attack, it is free to retaliate without any considerations regarding borders,” Obeid said. That means staging attacks from Lebanon and Syria, he said.
In his speech, Nasrallah referred to the Jan. 18 attack as “Iranian and Lebanese blood being mixed on Syrian soil.” Iran is a strong supporter of Syria’s Assad as well as Hezbollah.
That assault, which Nasrallah said was carried out by Israeli helicopters, targeted two vehicles, killing Jihad Mughniyah, 25, the son of Imad Mughniyah, a top Hezbollah militant commander. The elder Mughniyah was assassinated in a 2008 car bombing in Syria’s capital, Damascus. Israel is thought to have participated in that attack.
Also slain in the Jan. 18 assault was Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, who Iranian news agencies said was serving as a military adviser to the Assad government.
Israel declined to confirm or deny a role in that attack, which took place in the Quneitra area in the Syrian-controlled section of the Golan Heights.
Ruth Eglash in Jerusalem contributed to this report.