Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, is addressing his followers for the first time since the war in Gaza began, in a speech that could shed light on whether his group intends to expand the conflict into a regional war.
Large screens had been put up in a number of locations throughout Lebanon for the speech by Mr. Nasrallah, who has not spoken publicly since Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7. Thousands of his supporters gathered to watch at the largest event, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, which was decorated with Hezbollah and Palestinian flags. “We are for you, Nasrallah,” supporters chanted.
As the war has heightened tensions across the Middle East, officials from across the region and beyond are closely watching Hezbollah, a Hamas ally that is also supported by Iran and committed to the destruction of Israel, for signs that the violence could spread. Hezbollah, like Hamas, has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and other countries.
Early in the speech, which is ongoing, Mr. Nasrallah said that there was no battle that was more justified from a religious and moral perspective “than the battle with these Zionists,” a reference to the Israelis. He suggested that a “great event” was needed to restore the Palestinian cause as “the number one issue in the world.”
Hezbollah is a more powerful and sophisticated military force than Hamas, with tens of thousands of trained fighters, an arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets and a stock of precision guided missiles that can strike sensitive targets deep inside Israel. Military analysts believe that the group may also have other military capabilities that it has yet to unveil.
Mr. Nasrallah is a highly respected figure inside the “axis of resistance,” a network of Iranian-backed militias in several Arab countries that share an anti-American and anti-Israeli ideology and have come to coordinate their operations more closely in recent years. A decision by Hezbollah to launch a full-on war with Israel would likely encourage attacks by its allies in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
As the Gaza death toll from heavy Israeli airstrikes and ground incursions that began last week has risen into the high thousands, Hezbollah and Israel have clashed along the Israel-Lebanon border, targeting each other’s positions and killing combatants on both sides. But analysts say that Hezbollah and Israel so far appear to be calibrating their actions to avoid setting off a broader war.
At the same time, Hezbollah has released videos of its fighters launching guided missiles at Israeli communications infrastructure along the border, presumably in an effort to handicap Israeli surveillance.
Fighting along the border expanded on Thursday, with both Hezbollah and Hamas claiming responsibility for strikes in northern Israel and Hezbollah announcing that it had attacked an Israeli army position with exploding drones. Israel bombed sites in Lebanon that its military said were Hezbollah arms caches and command centers.
In recent days, Hezbollah supporters have shared videos on social media with glimpses of Mr. Nasrallah and scenes of uniformed Hezbollah fighters preparing for battle, raising expectations that expanded military activity is on the way.