BEIRUT / ALEPPO
A father reacts after the death of two of his children in Aleppo. REUTERS photo
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah yesterday called on the government to dispatch an envoy to Turkey in order to open direct negotiations with the kidnappers of Lebanese hostages held in Syria, in a speech stressing that Syria was threatened with “schemes of division and partition.”
“Right now we are speaking with the Turks and this will not yield the same results,” Nasrallah, whose Shiite group is a longstanding ally of the Damascus government of President Bashar al-Assad, said in a televised speech.
A group of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims were kidnapped on May 22 in the northern province of Aleppo, while on their way from Iran. Only two of them have been released. Several Lebanese leaders have travelled to Ankara
to ask the Turkish authorities to intervene with the captors.
The Hezbollah chief also said Syria was threatened with partition. “We fundamentally and ideologically reject any form of partition or division of any Arab or Islamic country and call for them to preserve their unity,” said Nasrallah. “From Yemen to Iraq to Syria, the region is threatened more than ever by partition, even in Egypt and Libya and Saudi Arabia.”Fierce clash near border
His comments came as furious combat raged around a military airbase in northern Syria.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels had stormed parts of the Taftanaz air base in the northwestern province of Idlib, near Turkish border, before withdrawing.
The rebels have been pursuing a strategy of attacking airports and military airfields, targeting five air bases in Idlib and the nearby province of Aleppo, trying to chip away at the government’s air power, which poses the biggest obstacle to advances by opposition fighters.
Activists also reported clashes, air raids and shelling in several suburbs of the capital Damascus, including Daraya, which the regime has been trying to capture from hundreds of opposition fighters for weeks.