The leader of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah blasted the silence of Arab and Muslim leaders over the ongoing persecution of Palestinian political prisoners who are currently on a hunger strike against brutal conditions in Israeli jails.
In a televised speech Tuesday, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah noted that the Islamic resistance group's support for the incarcerated Palestinian freedom fighters would remain unwavering.
Over 1,600 inmates are entering the third week of the historic mass hunger strike, which has drawn the participation of varied groups ranging from the Palestine Liberation Organization to the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or PFLP. The strike, dubbed the Freedom and Dignity Strike, was declared on April 17, Palestinian Prisoner's Day, by Palestinian resistance leader and prisoner Marwan Barghouti.
The strikers have put their lives on the line to demand basic rights such as an end to solitary confinement, administrative detention and deliberate medical negligence.
“Palestinian hunger strikers are only demanding their basic rights as prisoners in Israeli jails. Where are Arab leaders and Muslim organizations to see the situation of Palestinian hunger strikers?” Nasrallah asked, according to Press TV.
The Hezbollah leader's question, however, is likely to remain unanswered by Arab leaders – especially the Gulf monarchs. Regional powers such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar have increasingly embraced warm relations with Tel Aviv – albeit unofficial ones – due to a shared view with the Israelis that Iran is a threat and a common opposition to forces such as Hezbollah.
A report by the Financial Times in 2016 said that over the past few years, Israel has been exchanging security consultancy with the Arab monarchies. “The Sunni Arab states increasingly see the Middle East through the same prism as Israel,” Dore Gold, then Israel’s acting foreign minister, told the newspaper.
Hezbollah has been embroiled in the Syrian civil war since 2013, according to official statements, where the political party's militia has been fighting alongside the Syrian Army and allied groups to support the embattled government of President Bashar al-Assad. His government continues to fend off attacks by the Islamic State group and militants backed by the U.S. and its Arab allies.
Nasrallah on Tuesday also commented that if not for the Hezbollah presence in Syria, foreign-backed extremist fighters would have already overrun neighboring Lebanon.
Illustrating the oft-misunderstood battle lines in the Middle East, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon last week told reporters that the Islamic State group recently apologized to Israeli military forces after unintentionally attacking them along the Syrian border.
Hezbollah, on the other hand, has been credited with bringing a 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon to its knees in a blistering 33-day war that resulted in a humiliating retreat by Israeli occupation forces.
The Israelis regularly attack alleged Hezbollah targets in Syria while threatening to commit crimes against humanity in any future war against the Lebanese group, including targeting civilian infrastructure.
The Shia Muslim resistance group frequently accuses the Israelis of supporting extreme Sunni, or "takfiri," forces like the Islamic State group and al-Qaida in the Middle East.
In separate comments Tuesday, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem told delegates to the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine, “We (Hezbollah) have repeatedly expressed our unwavering support for the Palestinian resistance front, and stressed that we stand by the campaign that sacrifices its blood for the liberation of the entire occupied Palestinian territories rather than creation of two states.”