Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem hit back at Saudi Arabia on Friday, saying it must “apologize to Lebanon” over the events of last week.
“Some were surprised when Saudi Arabia decided to call off the several billions’ (military) grant to Lebanon, but in fact it was a chance for them (Saudis) to attack Lebanon and Hizbullah,” said Qassem during a memorial service in Ghobeiri.
“Let it be known: for us Lebanon is the country of freedoms and it will remain so and it will never be subservient to any country on the face of Earth,” he stressed.
“As Lebanese citizens, we want Lebanon for all the Lebanese and we want them to remain free with their heads held up high, not followers of any state. Lebanon will never become a Saudi emirate or an emirate for any country,” Qassem underlined.
Earlier in the day, Saudi Arabia extended sanctions on Hizbullah, freezing the assets of three Lebanese nationals and four companies over alleged ties to the party.
Riyadh has taken a series of measures against in recent days in response to verbal attacks from Hizbullah over the wars in Syria and Yemen as well as recent diplomatic stances by Lebanon’s foreign ministry.
The measures started last Friday when the Saudi foreign ministry announced that the kingdom was halting around $4 billion in military aid to the Lebanese army and security forces.
On Tuesday, the kingdom advised its citizens against travel to Lebanon and urged those already in the country to leave it, citing “safety” concerns. And on Thursday, media reports said around 90 Lebanese citizens have been fired from their jobs in Saudi Arabia.
Announcing the Saudi aid halt on Friday, an official said the kingdom had noticed “hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hizbullah on the state,” while also accusing the party of “terrorist acts against Arab and Muslim nations.”
“Thank God we have enough wisdom, strength, resistance, respect and vision that make others respect our will in being independent, not followers,” said Qassem on Friday.
“We will express this stance no matter what the price might be, because we are defending righteousness and because those who want freedom and dignity do not accept any injustice,” Hizbullah number two added.
“What happened during the last week requires Saudi Arabia to apologize to Lebanon, because it has insulted the Lebanese and those who exerted strenuous efforts to liberate their land and achieve their independence,” Qassem went on to say.
The Saudi measures have sparked a storm of criticism in Lebanon against Hizbullah and its allies, amid demands for an apology from the Lebanese government. But Qassem emphasized Friday that “it was Saudi Arabia that aggressed against us.”
“We did not aggress against it and we did not do anything that violates logic and the freedom of expression,” Qassem added.
“All we did was that we described Saudi Arabia’s actions. What can we say about Yemen? Are we supposed to say that the Saudi warplanes are firing missiles in order to feed the infants in their homes? Are we supposed to say that the artillery shells are entering hospitals to give oxygen to the patients?” Qassem wondered.
He added: “Saudi Arabia is killing children, women, men and the elderly in Yemen. It is destroying medical centers and committing the biggest crime of the century.”
And although Qassem accused Saudi Arabia and its Lebanese allies of launching baseless accusations against his party, he expressed “utmost keenness” on “extending hands for reconciliation, cooperation and understanding.”
“We will extend the hand to those who want to reevaluate their calculations for the sake of national action and for the sake of standing against Israel, the takfiris and all the conspiracies that are being plotted against Lebanon,” added Qassem