January 5, 2020 / 2:59 PM / 15 days ago

UPDATE 1-Hezbollah: US forces in Middle East to pay price for Soleimani killing

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BEIRUT, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday the U.S. military in the Middle East would pay the price for the killing of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, and U.S. soldiers and officers would return home in coffins.

Nasrallah, speaking in a televised addressed marking Soleimani’s death in a targeted U.S. air strike, said responding to the killing was not only Iran’s responsibility but the responsibility of its allies in the region too.

He said attacks on the U.S. military presence in the Middle East would be “fair punishment” for the killing of Soleimani, listing U.S. bases, naval ships and military personnel.

Founded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in 1982, Hezbollah is a critical part of an Iranian-backed regional military alliance.

The United States has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

“When the coffins of American soldiers and officers begin to be transported ... to the United States, (U.S. President Donald) Trump and his administration will realise that they have really lost the region and will lose the elections,” Nasrallah said, referring to the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Nasrallah said such an approach would force the United States to withdraw from the Middle East “humiliated, defeated and in terror ... as they left in the past”.

Nasrallah also said that U.S. civilians in the region “should not be touched” because this would serve Trump’s agenda. (Reporting by Beirut bureau; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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