(1960 - )
Hassan Nasrallah is the current Secretary-General of Hezbollah, the Lebanese political and paramilitary organization.
Nasrallah (born August 31, 1960) was born as the ninth of ten children to a family in Bourj Hammoud, a suburb in the eastern part of Beirut. Though his family was not particularly religious, Hassan became interested in theological studies and eventually moved to a Shi'a seminary in Bekaa Valley near Ba'albek. He became a devoted follower of the Iraqi-born cleric Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr.
Following a period of further religious studies in Iraq, Nasrallah was forced to return to his native Lebanon when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein expelled thousands of Lebanese religious students from the country. Upon his return, Nasrallah became active at a school founded by Amal leader Abbas al-Musawi and he was later selected as a member in central political office.
Nasrallah joined Hezbollah after Israel invaded southern Lebanon in 1982, as part of Operation Peace for Galilee to drive back Palestinian terrorists from Israel's borders. He quickly became noted for his fiery sermons and travelled twice to Iran to further his religious studies.
In 1991, when al-Musawi became Hezbollah's Secretary-General, Nasrallah returned from Iran to Lebanon and soon after Musawi's assassination by the Israel Defense Forces, Nasrallah replaced his mentor as Hezbollah's leader.
With Nasrallah at its helm, Hezbollah established a more extremist line against Israel and the US and began acquiring advanced weaponry, including rockets with longer range, that would enable the organization to lead fiercer hostilities with Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon. When Israel pulled out of Lebanon in 2000, Nasrallah and Hezbollah were widely credited in the Arab World as bringing to an end the Israeli occupation, a belief that helped the organization spread its virulently anti-Israel sentiments across a much wider spectrum.
In 2004, Nasrallah played a key role in negotiating a prisoner-exchange with Israel in which hundreds of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners were freed by Israel in exchange for the bodies of three IDF soldiers missing since October 2000 and one Israeli businessman abducted that same month.
In the summer of 2006, Nasrallah oversaw an operation to abduct IDF soldiers on the Israel-Lebanon border, an attack that directly precipitated the Second Lebanon War. During the conflict, Hezbollah fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, striking as far south as Haifa, though Nasrallah came under intense criticism from Arab regimes - including Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia - who warned of the risk of "the region being dragged into adventurism that does not serve Arab interests" because of Hezbollah's "unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts."
Nasrallah has remained hidden from public almost entirely since the Second Lebanon War for fear of Israeli assassination attempts.
Sources: Wikipedia; Israel Defense Forces