The Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah has unveiled a giant statue of the late General Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian commander assassinated by the US in Baghdad last month.
The unveiling ceremony took place on the Lebanon-Israel border on Saturday in the town of Maroun Al-Ras, where the militia group also set up observation decks to enable its supporters to peer into Israel. Hundreds attended the event.
The statue, which some reports say is simply a giant cardboard cut-out, is shown under a billowing Palestinian flag with an arm pointing towards Israel, signifying the purported goal of both Hezbollah and Iran to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation.
Tension between Hezbollah and Israel has risen over the past year, with the former having threatened an attack on the Zionist state on numerous occasions. This has raised fears that a direct military conflict between Israel and the Iran-backed group could ensue, particularly in the form of another Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon, as happened in 1978, 1982 and 2006 when Israel fought directly against the militia.
Soleimani was the commander of Iran’s Quds Force with especially close ties to Hezbollah due to his role of overseeing the spread of Iranian influence in the Middle East using Shia proxy groups. Last year, he admitted to helping Hezbollah in the 2006 conflict.
Hezbollah’s commemoration of Soleimani and its direct ties to Iran have also had an impact on domestic politics in Lebanon, where the group is a recognised political party with significant influence. The latter has increased concerns about Iran’s interference in the country.