• Thousands of Iran-backed fighters are ready to join Hezbollah in its fight against Israel.
  • The Israel Defense Forces have approved plans for a potential offensive in Lebanon.
  • The UN Secretary-General warned of a catastrophe "beyond imagination" if the conflict escalated.

Thousands of Iran-backed fighters are ready to join the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon as tensions rise with neighboring Israel, the Associated Press reported.

In a speech Wednesday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that militant leaders from the Iran-led "axis of resistance" have offered to send tens of thousands of fighters to support Hezbollah as the group's clashes with Israel threaten to spill over into all-out war.

"We told them, thank you, but we are overwhelmed by the numbers we have," Nasrallah said, per the AP, adding that Hezbollah already had 100,000 fighters in its ranks.

An Atlantic Council report from May 2020 said that Hezbollah had about 30,000 active fighters and up to 20,000 reserves at the time.

One unnamed official with an Iran-backed group in Iraq told the AP in Baghdad that if there were an all-out war, "we will be (fighting) shoulder to shoulder with Hezbollah," adding that some advisors from Iraq were already in Lebanon.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Foto: Hussein Malla / AP Images

Hezbollah has been launching strikes against Israel in support of the Palestinian militant group Hamas since the latter's October 7 attacks, which killed around 1,200 people in Israel.

Israel has struck back hard against the group, targeting its commanders and infrastructure in southern Lebanon.

Israel has also been weighing an all-out war with the group, with the country's defense minister, Israel Katz, saying on Tuesday that a decision on such a move was near.

"We are very close to the moment of decision to change the rules against Hezbollah and Lebanon. In an all-out war, Hezbollah will be destroyed and Lebanon will be severely hit," Katz wrote on X.

It came as the IDF announced plans had been approved for an "offensive" in Lebanon.

On Friday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that an escalation in the conflict would have devastating consequences.

"Let's be clear: The people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza," he said.

"One rash move – one miscalculation – could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the border, and frankly, beyond imagination," he said.

A report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank that was published in March said that even if Israel achieved a decisive defeat of Hezbollah in an all-out war, it would likely "not lead to the group's destruction given its deep roots in Lebanon and strong support from Iran."

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