Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah appeared on Lebanese television on Wednesday to deny reports on his failing health and the successful attack on his deputy by Syrian rebels. Nasrallah repeatedly flashed smiles during his address and exuded calm.
"The rumors that have been spread and their effect on the region prompted me to quickly arrange an appearance before you to talk about some of the issues at hand," Nasrallah said at the start of his address, which was aired on Al-Manar, a Hezbollah-affiliated TV station based in Lebanon.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Lebanese outlets, and later the Turkish Anatolia News Agency, reported that Nasrallah was battling cancer. According to the reports, a malignant tumor inside his brain metastasized to the rest of his body. He was reportedly hospitalized in Beirut and later secretly flown to Tehran for further treatment.
"I would like to stress that all of what has been said in the media regarding my health is false," Nasrallah said in the video, which was purportedly broadcast live. "We have recently witnessed an assault on Hezbollah via the media airwaves. This includes false and biased reporting that is designed to make libelous claims on Hezbollah and discredit it. Our immediate response is that in order to have our attackers learn their lesson, I decided to make a media appearance and to stress with my voice and image that all of what you have been hearing is patently false. If more rumors come out, I will appear again to debunk those rumors too."
Nasrallah claimed to be speaking from Beirut, although that could not be corroborated. Nasrallah denied the reports that his deputy, Sheikh Naim Qassem, was seriously wounded after being targeted by Syrian rebels. "These are false reports. Because of the sensitive matters that are at stake, we had to issue an immediate and clear response," Nasrallah said.
The Syrian opposition issued an official statement on Wednesday in which it said that its forces "attacked a convoy with high ranking Hezbollah officials and Syrian military officers."
"The attack completely destroyed the vehicles, and resulted in Naim Qassem being seriously wounded, and the commander of the Syrian brigades in the Beqaa Valley region being hurt as well," the statement read.
Qassem's state of health may have severe implications, as he was reportedly handed most of Nasrallah's powers due to the latter's supposed poor health.