First Published: 2013-04-22

 

Syria rebels to Hezbollah: Your role in Homs is ‘declaration of war’

 

Rebels warn Hezbollah's role in fighting amounts to ‘declaration of war,’ but militant group says it is merely protecting Lebanese people.

 

Middle East Online

By Sara Hussein – BEIRUT

Hezbollah raises curtains on its role in Syria

Syria's opposition warned on Monday that Hezbollah's role in fighting in Homs province amounts to a "declaration of war," but the militant group said it is merely protecting Lebanese people.

The comments came as a watchdog said the Lebanese Shiite group was leading the battle in the Qusayr area of Homs, which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has reportedly termed "the main battle" his troops are currently fighting.

"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," said George Sabra, the interim chief of the opposition National Coalition.

"The Lebanese president and the Lebanese government should realise the danger that it poses to the lives of Syrians and the future relations between the two peoples and countries," he told a news conference in Istanbul.

"We hope that the brotherly Lebanese people will raise their voices against the murder of free Syrians," said Sabra, shortly after his appointment was announced.

"We call in particular on our Shiite Lebanese brothers to stop their sons from going to kill Syrians and becoming victims of the conflict as well," he added.

Hezbollah is a close ally of the Assad regime, but has defended any involvement of its forces in Syria as a bid to protect Lebanese citizens in a string of villages inside the war-torn country.

"What Hezbollah is doing with regard to this issue is a national and moral duty in the defence of the Lebanese in border villages," Lebanon's official news agency quoted senior Hezbollah leader Sheikh Nabil Qauk as saying on Monday.

"To those who ask us to allow our brothers in these border villages to be victims of murders, kidnaps, massacres and expulsions, I respond to you: 'Can we leave these Lebanese hostage to this situation?" he added.

"Hezbollah's martyrs are the martyrs of the entire nation because they are defending their Lebanese compatriots," he said at a ceremony marking a week since the death of a Hezbollah fighter killed in Syria.

Fighting has raged in the Qusayr area of the central province of Homs for days, with regime troops winning control of a series of strategic villages in the area during the weekend.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said Hezbollah forces were leading the battle in the area.

"It's Hezbollah that is leading the battle in Qusayr, with its elite forces," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

"It's not necessarily fighters coming from Lebanon. It's Hezbollah fighters from Shiite villages on the Syrian side which are inhabited by Lebanese," he said.

The area is of strategic importance because it runs along the border with Lebanon and is near the route from Damascus to the coast.

The regime's capture of several villages in the area has raised fears among rebels that the town of Qusayr -- an opposition stronghold -- could also fall.

At the weekend, Assad himself reportedly referred to the importance of the fighting in the area, calling it "the main battle" his troops were engaged in.

"The main battle is taking place in Qusayr," the Syrian leader told a visiting Lebanese delegation, according to Abdel Rahim Mrad, a former Lebanese MP among the group.

"We want to finish it at any cost and we want to do the same in Idlib," a province on the Turkish border in the northwest which is a major rebel stronghold.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon on Monday implicitly confirmed Israel was behind a January strike on an arms convoy in Syria, saying it had "acted" to stop advanced weaponry reaching "Hezbollah or other rogue elements".

He made the remarks at a joint news conference in Tel Aviv with visiting US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Violence across Syria on Monday killed at least 95 people, including 29 civilians, 33 rebel fighters and 33 regime soldiers, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

 

Qatar says Gulf crisis hindering fight against IS

Khamenei vows to 'shred' nuclear deal if US pulls out

Baghdad says mission accomplished in Kurd operation

Bahrain accuses Iran of harbouring 160 'terrorists'

Jobless Tunisians seek new migration routes to Europe

EU says Israeli settlements illegal under international law

Kurdish independence goes from dream to dust

Female commander more than just poster girl for Raqa victory

Saudi airline flies to Baghdad for first time in 27 years

Wanted Dead: France's approach to IS jihadists

Saudi Arabia to monitor interpretations of prophet's sayings

Italy busts Libyan diesel smugglers

Fate of IS fighters in Raqa uncertain

Turkish Red Crescent concerned by Idlib humanitarian ‘drama’

US firm to build solar plants in Gaza

Ghost city Raqa scanned for survivors, bombs

Qatar emir calls for talks on visit to Indonesia

Iraq calls on BP to help develop Kirkuk oil

Israeli forces raid Palestinian media offices linked to Hamas

French parliament is set to pass new anti-terror law

Israel says no to Palestine talks until Hamas disarms

IS territory down to almost 10% of 2014 ‘caliphate’

Over 3000 civilians flee Raqa under deal with jihadists

Ideology and objectives clash at Deir Ezzor

Erdogan gets Polish backing on Turkey's EU bid

Iranian guards commander killed in Syria

Fitch Ratings says threat to Qatar liquidity fading

Iran warns EU against new nuclear deal conditions

Turkey activists face trial next week under terror charges

Netanyahu presses Russian defence minister on Iran

US-backed forces announce Raqa recapture

Hollande slams Trump's hardline stance on Iran nuclear deal

Iraq takes control of two key Kirkuk oil fields

US-backed forces retake Raqa state hospital

Divided Iraq tests limited US influence

New UN envoy in Rabat to restart talks on WSahara

Iraqi forces seize Kirkuk governor's office

Iraqi forces seize airport, oil field from Kurds

Saudi Arabia sets conditions to role in Syria reconstruction

In tougher approach, US offers multimillion-dollar reward for Hezbollah operatives

EU ministers join forces in support of Iran deal

Batteries, tape to thank for defeating jihadists in Raqa

Palestinian Authority top official visits Gaza

Israel strikes Syrian anti-aircraft battery in response to shots

Qatar starts to feel pinch from sanctions