Hezbollah, rebels trade barbs over Syrian war
DAMASCSUS / BEIRUT
A Syrian rebel distributes bullets to comrades in the Karm al-Jabal district of the northern city of Aleppo. Rebels denounced Hezbollah’s Syria statements. AFP photoSyria’s opposition denounced yesterday what it called “threats” from the head of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, and warned against any intervention by the movement or by Iran in the Syrian conflict.
“The Syrians and the Lebanese hoped ... that the Hezbollah leadership would stop their attacks on Homs and Damascus and take into account the gravity of the situation in the region,” the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) said in a statement. “But they heard nothing but threats ... and warnings against setting the region on fire and an admission of their interference in Syrian affairs,” the opposition grouping said. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said April 30 that Syrian rebels fighting the forces of President Bashar al-Assad would not be able to topple him using force.
Nasrallah, a staunch ally of al-Assad, said in a televised speech from an undisclosed location that Syria’s allies in the region and the world would not allow it to fall “into the hands of Americans, Israel and extremists.”
“The battle is long ... We tell you [Syrian rebels] that you will not be able to bring this regime down through military means,” he said. Syrian rebels have accused Hezbollah of fighting alongside the forces of al-Assad. The group has formally denied these accusations and said it was only fighting to protect Shiite villages along the border. But Nasrallah gave the strongest indication so far that his group was involved in fighting inside the country by admitting that his fighters had been killed in Syria. However, reports of the death toll were “exaggerated,” he added.
Hariri slams too
He also left the door open to greater participation in the conflict “if the situation escalates more,” expressing his concerns over the holy Shiite shrine of Sayyida Zeinab near Damascus. He said it is his fighters duty to protect the shrine and warned that there would be “dangerous retribution” if any harm befell the historic site.
The speech was also criticized by Lebanese opposition leader Saad Hariri, who accused Hezbollah of “leading Lebanon to ruin” by intervening in Syria.
Hariri slammed Nasrallah in a statement, saying he “gave himself the right to expand Hezbollah’s operations from southern Lebanon to Qusayr and Sayyeda Zeinab in Syria.”
“Nasrallah is telling us that the (Lebanese) state... will forever be a hostage in the hands of Hezbollah,” he added, accusing the group of “leading Lebanon to ruin.” Fighting between Hezbollah and the Syrian rebels in border villages has raged in the past weeks, threatening to drag Lebanon into the Syrian conflict.
The Syrian opposition has long accused Hezbollah of dispatching fighters to battle alongside government forces, and the opposition called on the Lebanese government “to immediately put an end to Hezbollah military operations in the regions close to the Syrian border.”