Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah
Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said in remarks published Monday that an Israeli ground invasion would not prevent Hizbullah from firing rockets into northern Israel.
"Any Israeli incursion will have no political results if it does not achieve its declared goals, primarily an end to the rocketing of Zionist settlements in northern occupied Palestine," Nasrallah told As-Safir newspaper. "I assure you that this goal will not be achieved, God willing, by an Israeli incursion," he said.
His remarks came after Hizbullah fired dozens of rockets at Israel on Sunday.
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Responding to reports about diplomatic efforts to end the fighting, Nasrallah said the priority was to end Israeli attacks on Lebanon, but added he was open to discussing initiatives.
Nasrallah would not take a stand on proposals to send an international force to southern Lebanon to keep the peace, but said it was "very noteworthy" that Israel first rejected and then accepted the idea of a NATO-led force.
In a shift of Israel's position, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday his country could accept an international force - preferably NATO - on its border to ensure the peace in southern Lebanon. "This shift in Israel's position must be studied and considered well before taking a positive or negative stand on this idea," he said.
'Israel's losses show weakness'
Nasrallah downplayed Hizbullah's loss of the strategic border village of Maroun al-Ras, saying Israeli media have hyped up the first major ground operation of the 13-day-old confrontation "as if it's the conquest of Stalingrad."
He said Israel's losses in the fighting for Maroun al-Ras showed the weakness of the Israeli army. Israel has said five soldiers were killed in the fighting there. Hizbullah reported three of its fighters killed in the area. Israel said Sunday two terrorists were captured. On Saturday, after fierce fighting, the Israeli military gained a foothold in Lebanon at Maroun al-Ras, a small village in hilly terrain with a commanding view of northern Israel.
The Israelis have not advanced since, despite Lebanese fears that troops could thrust deeper into Lebanon as they did during previous invasions in 1978 and 1982. "The enemy is seeking a military achievement in order to exaggerate it, and use it in the media and in politics," Nasrallah said.
Interested in prisoner swap
The chief of the Shiite organization indicated his group was still interested in a trade of two Israeli soldiers that Hizbullah captured in the brazen cross-border raid that sparked the current crisis, on July 12, for Arab prisoners held by Israel.
In previous statements, he has offered a swap, saying it was the only way for Israel to win the freedom of its soldiers. Israel has refused to negotiate and instead waged the current aerial offensive.
An envoy from Germany's Foreign Ministry visited Beirut on Sunday while the German foreign minister was in Israel, leading to speculation that the European nation may embark on a mission to negotiate the prisoner swap. Nasrallah said that Hizbullah has not been in contact with Germany but that the "German channel is still valid." He said he wouldn't object to other channels that the parties agree to.
In 2004, Germany negotiated a previous prisoner exchange between Hizbullah and Israel.