- "Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned on Thursday that a Lebanese government crackdown on his group was tantamount to a 'declaration of war' as clashes escalated between supporters of rival political factions in the deeply divided country.
Nasrallah issued his ominous statement on the second day of anti-government protests, with gunfights in several parts of the country, roads blocked and Lebanon's only international airport effectively shut down.
'The decisions (of the government) are tantamount to a declaration of war and the start of a war... on behalf of the United States and Israel,' a defiant Nasrallah said at a rare press conference via video link.
The Lebanese government on Tuesday launched a probe into a Hezbollah communication network and reassigned the head of airport security over his alleged links to Nasrallah's powerful Shiite militant group.
'Our answer to this decision is this,' Nasrallah said. 'We have the right to confront he who starts a war with us by defending our rights and our weapons.' As the long-running political crisis threatened to spiral out of control, at least eight people were reported wounded in clashes pitting mainly Sunni Muslim supporters of the Western-backed government against Shiite followers of the Hezbollah-led opposition. The army command warned that 'if this situation continues, everyone will lose and this will affect the unity of the military.' And newspapers drew parallels with the lead-up to the devastating 1975-1990 civil war."
Egypt and Saudi Arabia have both blamed the Hezbollah-led opposition for escalating tensions, and Egypt reiterated its support for Saniora. Syria and Iran, of course, back Hezbollah.
Lebanon still lacks a president since Emile Lahoud left office in November.
(Photo by Cate Gillon/Getty Images)