The head of Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah militia, Hassan Nasrallah, said on Saturday that his group intended to keep up pressure on Israel and claimed that it was striking deeper into Israeli territory with powerful new weapons.
Since war erupted more than a month ago between Israel and Hamas, the armed Palestinian group that controls Gaza, Israel and Hezbollah have clashed repeatedly along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran and share the goal of eradicating Israel.
But in the assessment of analysts, Israel and Hezbollah appeared to be calibrating their actions to avoid setting off what Israeli officials fear could become a broader regional war. Mr. Nasrallah has previously described Hezbollah’s objective as a controlled battle along the border aimed at sapping Israel’s morale and resources.
Mr. Nasrallah once again stopped short on Saturday of calling for an immediate, all-out regional war, echoing remarks he made in a speech last week, though he continued to dangle the threat.
For now, Hezbollah — along with militant groups from the West Bank and Yemen — will instead continue to support Hamas by keeping Israeli forces engaged on multiple fronts.
“The pressure must continue,” Mr. Nasrallah said during his televised address in Lebanon, adding that events on the battlefield would dictate whether this would grow into a bigger conflict. “We are in a battle of steadfastness and patience.”
As clashes continued along Israel’s increasingly volatile border with Lebanon, the Hezbollah leader said his group was now trying to hit targets deeper inside Israel with newer and more advanced weapons.
“There has been a quantitative improvement in terms of the number of operations and the type of weapon used,” he claimed, adding that Hezbollah for the first time had used drones and powerful new missiles and rockets — some of them containing as much as 500 kilograms of explosives — or roughly 1,100 pounds — against Israeli forces in recent days.
Hezbollah has also increasingly deployed surface-to-air missiles against Israeli drones, which have caused heavy casualties among Hezbollah fighters in recent weeks, according to the Israeli military.
In response to what the Israelis noted was an uptick in attacks by Hezbollah with more sophisticated weaponry, the Israeli military stepped up its airstrikes inside Lebanon on Friday evening, targeting Hezbollah weapons depots and intelligence infrastructure after a series of Hezbollah attacks using self-destructing drones and missiles seriously injured four Israeli soldiers.
Last week, after an Israeli drone strike killed a woman and three girls in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah also fired a barrage of Grad rockets at the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona, a first for the group since the fighting began.
Hwaida Saad and Yara Bayoumy contributed reporting.