The deputy to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Thursday that the Lebanese terror group’s leader was in good health a day after IDF officials leaked to Israeli media the army’s assessment that he had contracted the coronavirus.
The initial prognosis was made after Nasrallah coughed and wheezed his way through a recent televised address Tuesday in which he threatened “regional war” if Israel attacked holy sites in Jerusalem.
“The secretary-general is fine, praise be to God,” Naim Qassem told Lebanese media. “He was struck by illness in recent days, and needed two or three days to recover; but because those who love him were waiting for his speech on May 25, his failure to appear would have raised questions.”
The Israel Defense Forces’ assessment appeared to be largely based on circumstantial evidence as, according to Israel’s Channel 13, Nasrallah has not yet actually been tested for COVID-19.
The speech came on the 21st anniversary of the IDF’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, following an 18-year occupation of the area, and days after Israel and the Hamas terror group fought an 11-day battle in and around the Gaza Strip, which began when the latter fired multiple rockets toward Jerusalem after Israeli police officers responded forcefully to a riot on the Temple Mount.
Israeli military officials derided the speech by Nasrallah, who appeared pale and weak on camera, calling it a mistake.
Hezbollah’s shadow loomed large during Israel and Hamas’s conflict, with the possibility it could unleash its arsenal of missiles — far more powerful than Hamas’s — in support of the Palestinians. But the Iran-backed group largely remained on the sidelines.
Though Hezbollah did not play an active part in the fighting, three barrages of rockets were fired toward Israel from southern Lebanon during the Gaza battle, which Israel believes Hezbollah at least tacitly approved.
Daily protests, including by members of Hezbollah and Palestinians in Lebanon, took place along the frontier with Israel in solidarity with Gaza. One Hezbollah member was killed when Israel opened fire to push back against protesters who tried to break through the volatile frontier.
Agencies contributed to this report.