In the early hours of September 13, 1997, the Israeli army killed one 45-year-old woman, two Hezbollah fighters, and six Lebanese soldiers in the mountains of southern Lebanon. Later that day, Hezbollah officials viewed video footage of the bodies and confirmed that one of the slain was a precious kill indeed: 18-year-old Hadi Nasrallah, son of Hezbollah’s leader, Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah.

That evening, Nasrallah was scheduled to give a speech in Haret Hreik, the southern Beirut suburb where Hezbollah’s offices are located. His second-in-command, Sheik Naim Qassem, offered to speak in his place. But, when the Lebanese turned on their televisions that evening, they saw the bearded, boyish face–at 37, looking hardly more than a youth himself–of Hassan Nasrallah.

Though the entire nation knew by then that he had lost his son, Nasrallah didn’t mention it. He commemorated the anniversary of the September 13 massacre, a 1993 incident in which the Lebanese army opened fire on Hezbollah supporters. As he spoke, the audience began to clamor: Why wasn’t he talking about his son?

To this day, people in Lebanon still talk about what happened next. Breaking off from his speech, Nasrallah noted that the country had given many martyrs the previous night. He recited the names of the soldiers and added, almost as an afterthought, that his son and another Hezbollah fighter were also killed. He thanked God for choosing a martyr from his family, saying that, while he used to feel ashamed in front of families whose sons had died for their country, now he could look them in the eye. Hadi’s killing was a victory for Hezbollah, not for Israel, he pointed out: Instead of fighting each other, as in 1993, Lebanon’s army and its guerrillas were united. «We are now fighting together and falling as martyrs together,» said Nasrallah, as the audience cheered and chanted Hadi’s name. «This is a great victory for us, of which we are proud.» And then he went on with his speech.

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