Israel said it bombed a militant group’s base in Lebanon on Friday in response to the launching of four rockets across its northern border hours earlier. It was Israel’s first airstrike inside Lebanon since its 2006 war with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
The target was a base belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command located near the town of Naameh, just 10 miles south of Beirut, Lebanon’s state news agency reported.
The Popular Front denied any involvement in the rocket attack inside Israel, for which an al-Qaeda-linked organization had already claimed responsibility.
A protester was shot and killed on Sunday near the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, apparently in a clash between supporters and opponents of Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese Shiite Muslim organization whose military intervention in the Syrian civil war has strained Lebanon’s stability.
Demonstrators said that they were attacked by men wearing yellow armbands, the color of Hezbollah’s flag. They said the men beat on the windows of a bus that was taking the demonstrators to the protest, and then opened fire.
Hezbollah’s television station, Al-Manar, said that “a citizen” had shot a protester, citing statements form the Lebanese Army. The station did not say whether Hezbollah supporters were involved.
Two rockets hit Hizbollah’s stronghold in southern Beirut yesterday, marking a dangerous new phase in Syria’s civil war.
The attack on the Beirut suburb of Chiyah was limited in scale - four Syrian labourers were wounded and some windows were smashed - but its implications could be far reaching.
It was the first time the Hizbollah-dominated area has been attacked, sparking fears that a new front in the Syrian war is opening in the Lebanese capital.
The Free Syrian Army, the umbrella group representing some rebel forces, denied any role, but one FSA officer described the attack as a warning to Hizbollah.
“In coming days we will do more than this. This is a warning to Hizbollah and the Lebanese government to keep Hizbollah’s hands off Syria,” Ammar Al Wawi said.
Some Syrian rebels have said the war would soon arrive on Hizbollah’s home turf if the group continued to fight alongside Bashar Al Assad’s forces inside Syria. That pledge seems to have been borne out.
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah announced Saturday the large-scale involvement of his party in the war in neighboring Syria, saying his party’s fighting against Syrian rebels aimed at protecting the resistance group.
On Sunday, Syrian troops backed by Hezbollah fighters launched a massive offensive against the rebel-held town of Qusair near the border with Lebanon.
Nasrallah justified his party’s actions in Syria, citing the danger of the growing presence of takfiri groups in Syria, repeated threats from Syrian rebels and that his group would become a target of the United States and Israel should Assad fall.
Syrian government forces and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah launched a fierce campaign to seize more rebel territory in the border town of Qusair on Saturday, sources on both sides of the conflict said.
Rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad said additional tanks and artillery had been deployed around opposition-held territory in Qusair, a Syrian town close to the Lebanese border.
“I’ve never seen a day like this since the battle started,” said Malek Ammar, an activist speaking from the town by Skype. “The shelling is so violent and heavy. It’s like they’re trying to destroy the city house by house.”
At least 30 people were killed in opposition-held areas on Saturday, most of them rebels, and dozens were injured, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Rebels are largely surrounded in Qusair, a town of 30,000 that has become a strategic battleground. Assad’s forces want to take the area to secure a route between the capital Damascus and his stronghold on the Mediterranean coast, effectively dividing rebel-held territories in the north and south.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah hinted Tuesday that his group, as well as President Bashar Assad’s other allies Iran and Russia, could intervene militarily to prevent the downfall of the Damascus government.
The head of the resistance group also said his fighters would continue to defend Lebanese in Syrian border villages from rebel attacks, arguing that the Lebanese state was unable to fulfill the task itself.
“Syria has real friends in the region and the world that will not let Syria fall in the hands of America, Israel or Takfiri groups. They will not let this happen,” Nasrallah, Assad’s closest ally in Lebanon, said in a televised speech.
“How will this happen? Details will come later. I say this based on information…rather than wishful thinking,” Nasrallah added.
Syria accuses Western states and Israel of waging a war to topple Assad through the backing of “armed gangs,” Damascus’ term for rebels. Earlier this month, Assad told a visiting Lebanese delegation from the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition there would be no reconciliation with “Takfiri and terrorist groups.”
The Hezbollah chief said that judging by facts on the ground, Syrian rebels lacked the military capabilities to topple Assad, who is supported by Tehran and Moscow.
Two Lebanese Salafist sheikhs called Monday for a jihad to defend Sunnis in war-ravaged Syria following what they said was Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian fighting on the side of President Bashar Assad’s forces.
The calls by Sidon’s Sheikh Ahmad Assir and Tripoli’s Sheikh Salem alRifai, staunch supporters of the Syrian uprising, came as the newly appointed head of Syria’s opposition National Coalition warned that Hezbollah’s role in fighting in the central Syrian province of Homs amounted to a “declaration of war.”
“What is happening in Homs is a declaration of war against the Syrian people and the Arab League should deal with it on this basis,” George Sabra said in Istanbul shortly after the opposition bloc announced his appointment as interim chief. “The Lebanese president and the Lebanese government should realize the danger that it poses to the lives of Syrians and the future relations between the two peoples and countries.”
His statement follows reports that fighters from Hezbollah were taking the lead in the Syrian regime’s battle against rebel groups the Al-Qusair area of Homs.
Speaking to his followers at a news conference at Bilal bin Rabah Mosque in east Sidon Monday night, Assir called for “a jihad in Syria, particularly in Al-Qusair.” He vowed to establish what he termed “Free Resistance Brigades” starting from Sidon and urged Sunni scholars to endorse his decision.
Assir also called for forming “secret armed groups for self-defense in case [Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan] Nasrallah decided to start fighting in Lebanon as he is doing in Syria.”
The Middle East taught me pessimism. Much of the region goes in circles instead of progressing, and I’ve seen one country after another circle the drain.
Optimism is very American. It’s not exclusively American, and of course we have our own setbacks and failures, but things have generally trended toward the better in American life since the nation was founded.
The Middle East, though, teaches another way of looking at history’s trajectory. My own naïve optimism was dashed on the rocks in Lebanon and Iraq and hasn’t recovered. I never even bothered with optimism in Egypt. There’s nothing there to be optimistic about.
And I rarely meet anybody who actually lives over there who isn’t a pessimist. Expecting the best while everyone around you is expecting the worst is a difficult thing to pull off. It probably isn’t advisable even to try.
But I’m finding a bit of homegrown optimism in some quarters of Lebanon now, despite the fact that the economy is on its back and the Syrian war threatens to blow the country to pieces again, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t report it. The place has a serious case of the jitters and everyone knows this summer will be the third bad one in a row, but the medium and long term might be a little bit better, at least for some.
Though not for Hezbollah. No, the medium and long term for Hezbollah looks bleaker than ever.
* Clashes worst in border area since start of the war
* Region is important supply line for rebels
* Signs Hezbollah getting more openly involved (Adds rebel statement)
Syrian troops and Lebanese Shi’ite militias attacked rebel-held areas on the two countries’ border on Sunday, in the heaviest clashes of Syria’s civil war in the strategic region, Lebanese and Syrian sources said.
At least two towns held by Sunni Islamist rebels in the al-Qusair region near the Orontes River were overrun after sectarian clashes escalated early last week, threatening to bring in Iranian-backed Hezbollah openly into the battle, the sources said.
On Saturday, in the first attack well inside Lebanese territory, rockets hit the town of Hermel, a Hezbollah stronghold in the Bekaa Valley, causing damage but no casualties. A Hezbollah fighter was killed in the Shi’ite border town of Zita, inside Syria, residents said.
Terrorists fighting other terrorists. Gotta love it.
Syrian rebels said they attacked and destroyed a convoy carrying Hezbollah operatives and officers of the regime’s army near the Lebanese border on Tuesday.
Trucks carrying the fighters, including a high-ranking Syrian officer, were blown up by landmines planted on the Beirut-Damascus highway after the rebels were informed of the convoy’s route, a statement by the Free Syrian Army said. According to the statement, all of the passengers were killed in the explosion.
The convoy was reportedly en route to Lebanon, where its members were slated to meet an unnamed security official.
…“An FSA brigade launched two consecutive attacks at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, the first of which targeted a group of Hezbollah fighters in the western Qusayr district in Syria, killing or wounding all of its members,” the statement read. The attack was carried out with machine guns and antitank rockets against two four-wheel-drive vehicles used by Hezbollah.
In the second attack, several FSA brigades attacked with mortar shells a Hezbollah artillery position in the Hosh al-Sayyed Ali area inside Lebanon and “achieved direct hits,” according to the statement.
Meanwhile there are reports that Hezbollah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah is very sick from cancer.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has been flown to Tehran for emergency medical treatment with severe cancer-related complications, the Lebanese radio station the Voice of Lebanon reported on Monday.
A different report from Lebanon claimed that Nasrallah was flown to Iran after he was wounded in an attack by Syrian rebels during a meeting he was attending.
The reports are attributed to “senior Hezbollah officials,” but there were no official confirmation of the reports from any other source.
According to the reports, Nasrallah’s deputy, Naim Kassem, has assumed command of the terrorist organization.