Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah
made a rare public appearance on Tuesday, during a rally marking the Muslim holy day of Ashoura in Dahaniya – a suburb south of Beirut.
This was the Hezbollah
leader's first public appearance since 2008, the Lebanese media reported.
Nasrallah walked through a throng of people in a southern Shiite stronghold in Beirut and greeted the crowd from the podium, saying his appearance was a message to those who believe they can "threaten and intimidate us."
He addressed the crowds briefly: "I wanted to be among you for a few minutes. I always want to be with you, and now, let us renew our union with Hussein (the grandson of the prophet Muhammad)."
The crowd chanted, "Death to Israel" in repsonse.
Ashura, which is holy to Shiite Muslims, marks the anniversary of the death in the seventh century of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussein. His death in a battle outside of the Iraqi city of Karbala sealed Islam's historical Sunni-Shiite split, which still bedevils the Middle East.
Heavily guarded. Nasrallah arriving at the rally (Photo: AFP)
Once Nasrallah left, a pre-recorded address was shown to the cheering crowds.
"No plot or enemy has ever been able to (soften) the demands of the resistance," Nasrallah added. "Hezbollah does not want anything in return for the jihad and the resistance.
"We don't seek government positions, and if we took up arms and chose resistance, it is because ordered us to do so," the terror group leader said.
Nasrallah said every Hezbollah member dreams of becoming a shahid and following in the footsteps of Abbas Moussawi – the group's secretary general who was killed by Israel – and Imad Mughniyeh,
Hezbollah's top military commander, who was assassinated in Damascus in 2008.
"We will stick to the resistance. We grow stronger every day. We train, we build our confidence and our arms reserves," he said.
His appearance is meant to portray confidence at a time of upheaval in the Middle East and particularly in Syria,
which along with Iran
is Hezbollah's backer.
"The real threat to the (Palestinian) nation is the American-Israeli plan: The American administration will be president and the enemy will conquer Palestine," he said.
Nasrallah also predicted that the Islamists'
rise to power in Egypt
"poses an existential threat to Israel."
He continued to say that the Shiite group would not lay down the "arms of the resistance."
"We train and grow stronger each day; out faith becomes stronger, as do our weapons," he said, adding that Hezbollah's rockets could reach "way, way beyond Haifa."
Syrians and Arabs around the region have elevated Nasrallah's status to that of a national hero.
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.
Since the Second Lebanon War
in 2006, Nasrallah has reportedly been hiding in a bunker for fear of an assassination attempt by Israel.
He normally addresses his supporters through a recorded message or via satellite.