The leader of Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah has declared for the first time on Monday that his powerful militant group has 100,000 trained fighters.

Hassan Nasrallah disclosed the size of the Shiite group's militant arm in his first speech since seven people were killed in gun battles on the streets of Beirut on Thursday.

The confrontation erupted over a long-running probe into last year's massive port blast in the city.

Verifying the numbers of the largely secretive militant group is difficult. If true, it would be larger than Lebanon's armed forces, estimated to at about 85,000. Nasrallah’s claim could also be a scare tactic against opponents in Lebanon.

Hezbollah is also present in Syria, where it has been fighting as part of an array of Iranian-backed forces to help save Bashar al-Assad from his opponents in the civil war.

Thursday's clashes saw gunmen battling each other for several hours with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades in the streets of Beirut.

It was the most violent confrontation in the city in years, echoing the nation's darkest era of the 1975-90 civil war.

Science Weekly
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