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Anger in Beirut as Hezbollah supporters mourn Soleimani

Members of Hezbollah and their supporters gathered on Sunday in Beirut, Lebanon, to mourn the death of Iran's top military leader, General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a U.S. military airstrike on Friday in Iraq. NewsHour Weekend Special correspondent Jane Ferguson reports on how Iran’s most powerful proxy group is responding to the loss of their revered hero.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Good evening and thank you for joining us. We see the first significant repercussions tonight after the killing of Iran's top general this week. Iran announced it will no longer abide by any limits set in the 2015 nuclear deal. On state-run TV, the government said it would no longer limit its enrichment of uranium.

    The drone attack also killed an Iraqi militia leader, and the Iraqi parliament approved a non-binding resolution to expel all foreign forces from the country. In the special session, a majority of Iraqi lawmakers present voted in favor, but many Sunni and Kurdish members did not attend. Caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who resigned last month, told lawmakers "urgent measures" should be taken to remove foreign troops.

    About 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq. Today the U.S.-led military coalition combating ISIS in Iraq and Syria announced that it has paused its training mission in Iraq and is now focused on protecting its bases from attack. In a string of tweets last night, President Trump threatened retaliation if Iran strikes back at American targets, saying "we have targeted 52 Iranian sites… Some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture."

    On all five Sunday morning political talk shows, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo deflected questions of whether targeting cultural sites violates international law. He said the U.S. Will act "lawfully" and defended the president's threat to strike targets inside Iran.

  • Mike Pompeo:

    Iranian leadership needs to understand that attacking Americans is not cost free. Setting out conditions that say these are our expectations, these are the things that America is expecting from you and if you don't do them, the cost will be clear and- and direct.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In the holy Shiite city of Mashhad, Iran, hundreds of thousands of mourners turned out to pay tribute to General Qassem Soleimani, whose remains were flown to his home country this morning. And at a rally in Lebanon today, the leader of the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah said the U.S. Military will, quote, "pay the price" for Soleimani's death. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jane Ferguson has more from Beirut.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Furious chants began immediately as Hezbollah members and supporters gathered Sunday afternoon to hear funeral prayers for Iranian General Qassim Soleimani. In the midst of a packed hall in the Lebanese militant groups' stronghold of southern Beirut, supporters were still in shock. These people have seen leaders killed by American and Israeli strikes before, but never one so senior or so adored.

  • Mohammed:

    Did America tell us it was going to kill Soleimani? It didn't, it just killed him. We will answer amidst silence, no one will know where or when we will respond. Nobody will know.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Mohammed didn't wish to give his full name.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    It's hard to overstate just how angry the crowds here are in Beirut. 'Death to America' has been ringing out all day today and these people say that revenge will happen across the region.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Soleimani was, and still is, revered here. He was a close supporter and advisor to Hezbollah, the Iranian backed armed Islamist group in Lebanon. The group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, was the last leader Soleimani had been to see before flying to Baghdad where he and Shia militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were assassinated by a U.S. air strike on Friday night. Nasrallah spoke to his followers via TV link. Unlike Soleimani, he is almost never seen in public, for fear of a similar strike by Israel. "If this type of assassination goes unpunished, the region will be violated by the Americans and the Israelis," he told his followers. Outside the hall, the supporters of Hezbollah watched the speech in the street. Many here say Soleimani's killing will only harden them against America.

  • Zeinab Fadel:

    Trump is an idiot, because he has no idea what the repercussions of his actions are. He thinks his actions are going to weaken us? Not at all. His actions have made us stronger. He has created 1000 Soleimanis, 1000 Muhandis, 1000 Nasrallahs. He is the one that has lost, not us.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Hezbollah is the strongest non-state fighting force in the Middle East today — Iran's most deadly proxy. They have been fighting for years in Syria to prop up the regime, gaining invaluable experience alongside Russian Special Forces. If there is a wider war in the region, then Hezbollah will almost definitely be involved, much like Soleimani was himself.

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