With at least 24 people dead and hundreds wounded, southern Beirut is still reeling from a car bombing that is the biggest single strike the city has seen since the mid-1980s.
The group that claimed credit, the Brigades of Aisha, said it was retaliation for Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War. The attack targeted a Shi’ite neighborhood full of Hezbollah supporters, and has those supporters calling for revenge.
That seems to be the working plan for leader Hassan Nasrallah as well, as in a speech today he promised to double the number of fighters in Syria. Without clarifying how many are there now, he declared “if we have a thousand fighters they will become 2,000, and if we have 5,000 fighters they will become 10,000.”
The decision to go into Syria was initially very controversial among Hezbollah supporters, but after the killings there seems to be a lot more appetite for intervention across the border. Nasrallah insisted he was prepared to send every single Hezbollah fighter to Syria, and even go himself if necessary.
The second part got a lot of focus, but is no doubt rhetorical, as the 52-year-old Nasrallah is a religious leader, not a fighter, and would be too high value a target to put at risk of capture or killing by al-Qaeda-linked rebels. Rather, his statement promises escalation and points to the likely accurate view that he can get away with sending a lot more fighters now, something that would’ve been all but impossible a few weeks ago.
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