Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah Threatens Israel, Cyprus in Televised Address

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a speech via a screen at a memorial ceremony for senior Field Commander, Taleb Sami Abdallah, known within Hezbollah as Hajj Abu Taleb who was killed on 11 June, in a suburb outside Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon, 19 June 2024. (EPA)
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a speech via a screen at a memorial ceremony for senior Field Commander, Taleb Sami Abdallah, known within Hezbollah as Hajj Abu Taleb who was killed on 11 June, in a suburb outside Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon, 19 June 2024. (EPA)
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Head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah Threatens Israel, Cyprus in Televised Address

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a speech via a screen at a memorial ceremony for senior Field Commander, Taleb Sami Abdallah, known within Hezbollah as Hajj Abu Taleb who was killed on 11 June, in a suburb outside Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon, 19 June 2024. (EPA)
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a speech via a screen at a memorial ceremony for senior Field Commander, Taleb Sami Abdallah, known within Hezbollah as Hajj Abu Taleb who was killed on 11 June, in a suburb outside Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon, 19 June 2024. (EPA)

The head of Lebanon's Hezbollah said on Wednesday that nowhere in Israel would be safe if a full-fledged war breaks out between the two foes, and he also threatened Cyprus and other parts of the Mediterranean.

Hezbollah has been trading fire with Israel for more than eight months in parallel with the Gaza war. On Tuesday, the Iran-backed group published what it said was drone footage of sensitive military sites deep in Israeli territory.

In a televised address on Wednesday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said "there will be no place safe from our missiles and our drones" in Israel in the event of a broader war.

The group also had "a bank of targets" that it could target in precision strikes, he said.

Israel "knows that what also awaits it in the Mediterranean is very big...In the face of a battle of this magnitude, it knows that it must now wait for us on land, in the air, and at sea," Nasrallah added.

The group first showed it could hit a vessel at sea by striking an Israeli warship in the Mediterranean during their 2006 war.

Reports by media and analysts have for years indicated that Hezbollah acquired Russian-made anti-ship Yakhont missiles in Syria, after its forces deployed there more than a decade ago to help President Bashar al-Assad fight the country's civil war.

Nasrallah also threatened Cyprus for the first time, accusing it of allowing Israel to use its airports and bases for military exercises.

"The Cypriot government must be warned that opening Cypriot airports and bases for the Israeli enemy to target Lebanon means that the Cypriot government has become part of the war and the resistance (Hezbollah) will deal with it as part of the war," Nasrallah said.

There was no immediate comment from authorities in Cyprus.

Cyprus is not known to offer any land or base facilities to the Israeli military, but has in the past allowed Israel to use its vast airspace - its flight information region (FIR) - to occasionally conduct air drills, but never during conflict.

Sovereign British military bases have been used by the United Kingdom for operations in Syria and more recently, Yemen. The Cyprus government has no say in the matter. There are two British bases in Cyprus, which was a colony until 1960.

Nasrallah said his group would fight with "no rules" and "no ceilings" in the event of a broader war. He was speaking at a memorial event for a commander killed in an Israeli strike last week - the most senior Hezbollah figure to be killed so far in the current conflict with Israel.

Hezbollah unleashed its largest volleys of drones and rockets at Israel in retaliation. UN officials expressed concern at the escalation, and US envoy Amos Hochstein traveled to Israel and Lebanon to urge both sides not to move into a full-scale conflict.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : New PMF Draft Law in Iraq Raises Questions about Fayyadh’s Electoral Ambitions 

Members of the PMF are seen during a military operation. (PMF on Telegram – file photo)
Members of the PMF are seen during a military operation. (PMF on Telegram – file photo)
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New PMF Draft Law in Iraq Raises Questions about Fayyadh’s Electoral Ambitions 

Members of the PMF are seen during a military operation. (PMF on Telegram – file photo)
Members of the PMF are seen during a military operation. (PMF on Telegram – file photo)

Head of Iraq’s Taqaddum party and former parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi expressed on Tuesday his fierce opposition to a draft law related to the enlistment and retirement of members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

In a post on the X platform, Halbousi accused PMF leader Faleh al-Fayyadh of abusing his position for “partisan goals.”

Parliament is expected to discuss the draft law on Wednesday.

The law raised questions over political influence within the PMF, a military group that was formed in 2014 and that became an official state institution in 2016.

The law in Iraq prohibits military officials from using their position for electoral purposes or to work in politics. They must resign from their position before pursuing political interests. Fayyadh has repeatedly been accused of flouting this law.

Fayyadh is already the head of a political bloc that enjoys influence in a number of provinces. It is currently vying for government posts in the Nineveh council.

Fayyadh has also been accused of using PMF funds to finance his al-Ataa movement.

Halbousi criticized the draft law for undermining the independence of the military and security agencies as stipulated in the constitution.

The law allows the leader of the PMF to also act as a head of a political party and therefore, he would be able to employ the PMF and its forces for his political agenda, added Halbousi.

He wondered whether the draft law would be used for “unacceptable electoral and political purposes”.

A source close to the Taqaddum party said Fayyadh designed the draft law to “serve his electoral ambitions.”

In remarks to Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt, he added that the law “sets no boundaries between Fayyadh’s political role and his position as head of the PMF.”

Moreover, he noted that the law allows Fayyadh to send into retirement any member of the PMF, a power he could use against a vast number of members to secure their vote in elections.

A leading member of the pro-Iran Coordination Framework said Halbousi’s attack against Fayyadh may be supported by some Shiite forces that want to remove him from his post.

The official revealed that the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group was among Halbousi’s strongest backers in this regard.

The group has long been planning on ousting Fayyadh, 68, so the draft law is unlikely to be ratified without amendments, he went on to say.

Leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq Qais al-Khazali had previously called for Fayyadh’s ouster because he has exceeded the legal age for the position and because he is the leader of a political party.

As of 2024, the PM boasts 238,075 members. It initially had no more than 60,000 when it was first formed in 2014 to fight the ISIS extremist group.

The number of its members kept growing even after ISIS’ defeat in Iraq, sparking accusations that leading members were adding fake names to the PMF for financial gain.

In 2019, former Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi accused some PMF leaders of “mysteriously making fortunes from public funds.”

On Monday, independent MP Sajjad Salem called for “criminalizing the possession of weapons outside the state and merging the PMF with the security forces to prevent Iran from exerting its influence through its proxies in factions and militias.”

The Iraqi state budget revealed that around 3 billion dollars (some 4.5 trillion dinars) are allotted to the PMF with hundreds of billions of dinars dedicated to salaries and the purchase of weapons.