Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the powerful armed group Hezbollah, pledged on Friday that it would not negotiate peace with Israel until the war in Gaza ends — a statement that came as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken began a diplomatic tour around the Middle East to defuse regional tensions amid deepening fears of a wider conflict.
Israel’s top officials have repeatedly threatened that if U.S.-led efforts to secure a diplomatic settlement fall through, they will have little choice but to increase military action against Hezbollah inside Lebanon. U.S. officials have expressed concern that, should the fighting expand on more fronts, it could potentially drag the United States into a regional war.
“You should demand your government to stop the offensive,” said Mr. Nasrallah, addressing Israeli civilians directly, in a televised speech. “There will be no dialogue unless the aggression stops in Gaza.”
“You will be the first to pay the price,” he warned.
Mr. Nasrallah reiterated a message from his speech Wednesday, when he vowed that Hezbollah would avenge the killing of a Hamas leader, Saleh al-Arouri — a man he described as a “dear friend” — in a suburb of Beirut, the Lebanese capital. Mr. al-Arouri was the most senior Hamas figure to have been killed since Israel vowed to destroy the organization and eliminate its leadership after sweeping Hamas-led raids into Israel on Oct. 7.
“This won’t go unpunished,” Mr. Nasrallah said Friday. “We cannot stay silent. ”
As he did on Wednesday, Mr. Nasrallah did not say exactly how, or when, his group would respond to the assassination. And although clashes have been intensifying along the Israel-Lebanon border, none so far have signaled a marked escalation.
Israel has not publicly accepted or denied responsibility for the killing, but two senior Lebanese security officials, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss an active investigation, said that Israel had carried out the attack using six missiles, two of which did not explode.
Lebanon’s caretaker government has submitted a complaint to the U.N. Security Council over the killing of Mr. al-Arouri, calling it the “most dangerous phase” yet amid the escalating conflict, according to a statement.
As he closed his remarks, Mr. Nasrallah appeared to acknowledge this new chapter.
“The war today is not only for the sake of Palestine, it is also for Lebanon,” he said.