BEIRUT -- Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah yesterday warned all Israeli Arabs to leave the port city of Haifa so the militant group could step up attacks without fear of shedding the blood of fellow Muslims.
Haifa, Israel's third-largest city, has been the frequent target of Hezbollah's rocket attacks.
``I have a special message to the Arabs of Haifa, to your martyrs and to your wounded. I call on you to leave this city. I hope you do this. . . . Please leave so we don't shed your blood, which is our blood," Nasrallah said.
The Shi'ite cleric also gave a deeply negative assessment of the proposal to halt fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, in his first comments on a draft UN cease-fire resolution.
``The least we can describe this is as unfair and unjust," he said in a televised speech, referring to the draft resolution. ``It has given Israel more than it wanted and more than it was looking for."
But in a policy shift, Nasrallah said the guerrilla organization was solidly behind a Lebanese government plan to deploy 15,000 soldiers in south Lebanon if a cease-fire is reached and Israel pulls out its forces.
``In the past we used to oppose or not agree on deployment of the army at the borders," the Hezbollah leader said. Now, he said, ``we agree on deployment of the army."
Lebanon has been pushing to amend the US-French proposal to require that Israeli withdraw its troops from the south immediately after a cease-fire is agreed upon. But US envoy David Welch told Prime Minister Fuad Saniora that Israel had rejected the demand.
Nasrallah heaped criticism on the assistant US secretary of state, David Welch, for visiting Beirut yesterday as Israel's Security Cabinet decided to expand the ground offensive in southern Lebanon.
``We will be waiting for you at every village, at every valley. Thousands of courageous holy warriors are waiting for you," he warned the Israelis.
Welch's visit to the Lebanese capital, he said, was designed ``to terrify the government and the Lebanese to pressure them to accept old-new conditions."
He also said the guerrillas would not falter, vowing, ``We'll keep fighting to the last shot."