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Tuesday, 23 May, 2000, 21:51 GMT 22:51 UK
Hezbollah chief warns Israel
Sheikh Nasrallah
Sheikh Nasrallah has support from Syria and Iran
By Hilary Andersson in Tyre

The leader of Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has said he will not tolerate attacks on Lebanese civilians and has warned Israelis near the border to stay in their bomb shelters.

His statement on Hezbollah radio follows the killing of several Lebanese civilians in the past two days.

Stepping up the rhetoric, Sheikh Nasrallah warned Israelis on the northern border to stay in their underground bunkers, where they have been sheltering in case of Hezbollah rocket attacks.

Israel's Metulla crossing point
Hundreds of Lebanese have fled to the Israeli border

Hezbollah has made huge gains in the zone previously occupied by Israel and its South Lebanon Army (SLA) allies. It said on Tuesday that at least 20 more villages had been captured.

As large numbers of SLA fighters continue to flee, he warned them to give themselves up, pledging that they would not be randomly killed by his men as many of them had feared.

He also spelt out his organisation's position, saying that if Hezbollah prisoners were not released by Israel, Hezbollah would not consider the occupation to be over.

Likewise he warned that Israel must withdraw beyond a disputed area known as Shabaa, in the east of the zone.

Israel has said that the Shabaa lands are not part of Lebanon, but instead part of an area they captured from the Syrians in 1967.

With these disputes still remaining, it is clear that Hezbollah could still consider itself to be at war with Israel, even after the pull out is over.

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See also:

23 May 00 | Middle East
Chaos in south Lebanon
22 May 00 | Middle East
Annan warns of UN withdrawal
05 May 00 | Middle East
Eyewitness: Meeting Hezbollah fighters
05 May 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Risky strategy exposed
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