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Is Hezbollah Hesitant To Help Hamas?


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. A humanitarian truce is in effect between Israel and Hamas. The 12-hour cease-fire is allowing people to recover their dead and bring in supplies after 19 days of conflict, which has killed hundreds of Palestinians and over 30 Israelis. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Paris today spearheading international efforts to try to extend the truce. We're joined now by the BBC's Kim Ghattas. She's in Beirut. Kim, thanks very much for being with us.

KIM GHATTAS: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: As one must note, a tenuous cease-fire, given all that's gone before and all the hostility that seems to have been accumulated over the last few days, what chances do you give Secretary Kerry of being able to bring about something - a more lasting truce?

GHATTAS: Very low certainly in the very near future. The humanitarian pause that has been agreed on is holding for now. But that's only for 12 hours. The problem is that on both sides, demand have to be met. The Israelis have demands. Hamas has demands. And I just don't see how Mr. Kerry can bridge the gap at the moment. The Israeli military wants a cease-fire that includes the possibility for them to continue dealing with Hamas's tunnels. That's not something that Hamas is going to agree to.

SIMON: You're in Beirut. And there was another speech by the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, last night. In the past, Hezbollah, which of course is the Lebanese Party of God, backed by Iran, has given support to Hamas launching rockets from Lebanon into Israel. This time, that seems to be not the case.

GHATTAS: This time around, they're very careful about how they're going to give support for Hamas because politically, inside Lebanon, they can't afford to drag Lebanon into another war particularly because Hezbollah is involved in another war in Syria supporting President Assad's forces. And it's just too much for the group to bear. And they don't want to drag Lebanon into a second war when there is a lot of resentment in Lebanon towards Hezbollah for dragging Lebanon into the Syria conflict.

SIMON: So they're making a calculation that there's not much to be gained by getting involved on behalf of Hamas.

GHATTAS: Yes. They're making a calculation that there is not much to be gained for them. But they do need to give lip service to let's say the Palestinian cause, which is - Hezbollah's raison d'etre as well - its, you know, resistance against Israel. And the added element to this is the breakup between Hamas and Hezbollah because of that Syrian conflict. Hamas is part of that axis with Syria and Iran. Syria provides a lot of the logistical support, the conduit for weapons. Iran is more about the ideology. And with Hamas and Hezbollah, that foursome is what is known as that axis of resistance. So there is a limit to how much Hezbollah wants to give support to Hamas. I think that what Hezbollah would like to see is to see Hamas beg to be brought back into the fold.

SIMON: So Hezbollah is willing to give what amounts to rhetorical and maybe some moral support. But in their list of concerns and priorities, the Palestinians aren't very high.

GHATTAS: They're high in the rhetoric. And they're high in the idea that there is a cause that needs to be fought for and that is resistance against Israel and support for the Palestinians. The calculation that Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, is making at the moment is that it doesn't require him stepping in physically and launch rockets at Israel to help the Palestinians. He said that there was already a victory for the Palestinians in Gaza despite the very heavy civilian toll. So in essence, he's telling Hamas you seem to be doing fine. You don't need our help. We're not going there.

SIMON: Kim Ghattas, author of the book "The Secretary: A Journey With Hillary Clinton From Beirut To The Heart Of American Power." She covers international affairs for the BBC. Thanks for being with us.

GHATTAS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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