Hezbollah to Increase Presence in Syria

Hezbollah to Increase Presence in SyriaHezbollah to Increase Presence in Syria

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah said his fighters would expand their presence in Syria, stressing that the group was engaged in an existential battle against the IS militant group.

Nasrallah acknowledged for the first time that Hezbollah was fighting across all of Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, Al Jazeera said in a report.

He called specifically on his critics in Lebanon to back his presence across the border, warning that their support for Assad’s opponents would not save them from IS.

“Today we are facing a kind of danger that is unprecedented in history, which targets humanity itself,” Nasrallah said, speaking ahead of Monday’s anniversary of the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon in 2000.

“This is not a threat to the resistance in Lebanon or to one sector of the regime in Syria or the government in Iraq or a group in Yemen,” he added, addressing an audience in the southern town of Nabatiyeh in a telecast broadcast on a big screen.

“This is a danger to everyone. No one should bury their heads in the sand … We invite everyone in Lebanon and the region to take responsibility and confront this danger and end their silence and hesitation and neutrality.”

Nasrallah has repeatedly underlined Hezbollah’s presence in Syria as protecting Lebanon from the threat of extremism.

On Sunday, he said the choice in Syria is between IS and Al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, or the government and its allies like Hezbollah.

 Present in all Places

Nasrallah said Hezbollah was fighting throughout Syria and not just in areas near the border with Lebanon.

“We are fighting alongside our Syrian brothers, alongside the army and the people and the popular resistance in Damascus and Aleppo and Deir Ezzor and Qusayr and Hasakeh and Idlib,” he said. “We are present today in many places and we will be present in all the places in Syria that this battle requires.”

Nasrallah dismissed the US-led coalition fighting against IS, saying the extremist group continued to move freely despite the coalition’s airstrikes.

He directed much of his speech to members of Lebanon’s opposition group, Future Movement, warning they would be the “first victims of IS and al-Nusra” if they arrive in Lebanon.

More than 220,000 people have been killed in Syria’s civil war. While Lebanon is officially neutral on the conflict next door, the country has been unable to escape the effects of the war. It hosts more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees, and has seen existing sectarian tensions rise during the war.

 Hezbollah Gains Against Al-Qaeda

Hezbollah members have captured two hilltops from Nusra Front in areas close to the Lebanese border and have killed dozens of enemy combatants, Al-Manar television reported on Monday.

It said in a newsflash that the Lebanese group had captured the hilltops of Quba’a and Naqar in Syria’s southwestern Quinetra Province, which lies in sensitive territory close to Lebanon and Israel.

Nasrallah has vowed to clear the border area of armed groups that have carried out attacks on Lebanese soil. The Hezbollah secretary-general said in his Sunday address that an offensive his group is leading in the mountainous region of Qalamoun along the border between Syria and Lebanon would last “until the borders are secured.”

Also on Sunday, Syrian army airstrikes killed at least 300 insurgents and wounded hundreds more during a military operation to free besieged troops at a hospital in northwestern Syria, state television said.

Dozens of Syrian troops, who had been holed up since April in the Jisr al-Shughour hospital in Idlib Province, were freed on Friday.