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.
Israeli jets bombed a convoy on Syria’s border with Lebanon on Wednesday, sources told Reuters, apparently targeting weapons destined for Hezbollah in what some called a warning to Damascus not to arm Israel’s Lebanese enemy.
“The target was a truck loaded with weapons, heading from Syria to Lebanon,” said one Western diplomat, adding that the consignment may well have included anti-aircraft missiles.
The overnight attack, which several sources placed on the Syrian side of the border, followed warnings from Israel that it was ready to act to prevent the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad leading to Syria’s chemical weapons and modern rockets reaching either his Hezbollah allies or his Islamist enemies.
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said yesterday that more than half a million Syrian refugees were either registered or awaiting registration in the region.
The civil war has driven hundreds of thousands of Syrians into neighbouring countries. Lebanon is now host to 154,387 registered Syrian refugees, Jordan has 142,664, Turkey 136,319, Iraq 65,449 and North Africa 11,740, the UNHCR said in Geneva.
In addition, there are more than 1.5 million Syrians who fled violence for safer areas within the country.
Large numbers of Syrians have also crossed into neighbouring countries but have not yet registered for refugee status and assistance, it said. These include about 100,000 in Jordan, 70,000 each in both Turkey and Egypt and tens of thousands in Lebanon, it said, citing government estimates.
Lebanon — Gunmen loyal to opposite sides in neighboring Syria’s civil war battled on Wednesday in the streets of a northern Lebanese city where two days of clashes have killed at least six people and wounded more than 50, officials said.
The Lebanese army fanned out in the city of Tripoli in an attempt to calm the fighting, with soldiers patrolling the streets in armored personnel carriers and manning checkpoints. Authorities closed major roads because of sniper fire.
The fighting comes at a time of deep uncertainty in Syria, with rebels fighting government troops near Assad’s seat of power in Damascus.
In Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated concerns that “an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons” or lose control of them to militant groups.
She also said NATO’s decision on Tuesday to send Patriot missiles to Turkey’s southern border with Syria sends a message that Ankara is backed by its allies. The missiles are intended only for defensive purposes, she said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted Wednesday in the Turkish newspaper Sabah as saying that Syria has about 700 missiles, some of them long-range.
“At this very moment we know where those missiles are, how they are being stored, whose hands they are in,” he said.
Pope Benedict XVI has appointed six priests from non-European countries to be cardinals, at a service in the Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica.
The cardinals, the closest aides of the Pope, come from the Philippines, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Colombia and the US.