Hezbollah chief Nasrallah says group could escalate its response to Israel

BEIRUT, Aug 7 (Reuters) - The leader of Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday that his group had chosen to respond to Israeli air strikes on open land, but could escalate its actions in the future.

No strikes were reported on Saturday, and no casualties have been reported thus far.

On Friday, Hezbollah fired rockets towards Israeli forces, drawing retaliatory fire from Israel into south Lebanon. read more Both sides targeted open land, indicating that they did not wish to escalate the salvos further.

In a speech commemorating the end of the 2006 war with Israel, Nasrallah said this week's Israeli air strikes were a "dangerous development" that had not been seen in the last 15 years.

He said the group wanted to show any Israeli air strike would be responded to in "the appropriate and proportional way".

"We chose yesterday open land in the Shebaa Farms area to send a message, and to take a step, and we can later escalate by another step," Nasrallah said.

Nasrallah said that Hezbollah's options included a response on any open land in "northern occupied Palestine," Galilee, or the Golan Heights.

The exchanges began on Wednesday with a rocket strike on Israel from Lebanon for which no group claimed responsibility. That attack, on which Hezbollah has not commented, drew retaliatory Israeli artillery and air strikes.

Regional tensions are running high following an alleged Iranian attack on an Israeli-managed oil tanker in the Gulf last week in which two crew members were killed. Tehran denies involvement. read more

Reporting by Laila Bassam; writing by Nafisa Eltahir; editing by Barbara Lewis

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