The Los Angeles Times reports: The leader of the militant group Hezbollah on Saturday aligned his powerful movement squarely behind the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and vowed victory against Syrian rebels, whom he assailed as proxy warriors for the West and Israel.
The televised comments by Hassan Nasrallah were the most definitive to date rallying Hezbollah to the defense of Assad’s government, which has been trying to put down a revolt by rebels supported by the United States and its allies.
The comments came as Syrian government forces, assisted by Hezbollah militiamen, intensified their assault on the strategic Syrian town of Qusair, near the Lebanese border. Both sides reported fierce fighting in Qusair six days after Syrian forces and their Hezbollah allies launched an attack on the longtime rebel stronghold.
“Syria is the backbone of the resistance, and the resistance cannot stand with folded hands while its backbone is being broken,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech, referring to Hezbollah’s signature “resistance” to the state of Israel.
“The battle is ours,” Nasrallah added, “and I promise you victory.”
The Independent reports: Two rockets hit a Beirut neighbourhood earlier today raising fears that the bloody civil war in Syria is increasingly seeping across the border into Lebanon.
AFP reports: Twenty-two Hizbullah members were killed in fighting alongside Syrian government forces against rebels for control of the town of Qusayr, a source close to the Lebanese group said on Sunday.
“There were 22 killed on Saturday. Nine bodies were repatriated the same day and the rest on Sunday,” the source said, declining to be named.
The Syrian army announced that on Saturday its forces had infiltrated Dabaa military airport, a rebel post north of Qusayr, a week into a Hizbullah-backed offensive to recapture the strategic central town near the Lebanese border.
Martin Chulov reports: The workmen had been busy in the room where Hezbollah honours its dead. In one corner of the martyrs’ cemetery in south Beirut, four women shrouded in black sat cross-legged near a new grave, reading from the Qu’ran. Metres away, the yellow flag of the militant group covered a freshly covered hole in a white marble floor. The scent of burning incense wafted across the room.
Another grave, its concrete seal barely dry, had been partly completed nearby. There were seven fresh holes in all; and the grave digger was never far away. More bodies were due on Friday. At this rate, the tiny room – a shrine to Hezbollah’s cause as much as to the men who died fighting for it – would soon be full.
The flurry of activity in the martyrs’ cemetery marks the busiest period for the militant movement since the 2006 war with Israel, in which an estimated 400 of its members died. All the new graves here have been dug in the past 10 days. Many others have been sealed with the familiar yellow and green standard in villages across Lebanon where the rumblings of a very different war have now boiled over into sacrifice and loss.
The newly arrived dead have ushered in a new reality for Hezbollah, one that has taken more than two years of uprising and war in neighbouring Syria to publicly acknowledge: all the fallen have died fighting Arabs in Syria, not Jews in Israel. Such a shift in orientation, for so long denied by the group’s leadership, is now being worn as a badge of honour by the families of the dead.
Many of the next of kin interviewed by the Guardian said that their sons and brothers had been defending Lebanon from foreign plotters – in this case Salafists from the east rather than Zionists from the south. “The threat to us comes from all directions,” said one grieving relative in the Beirut suburb of Chiyah on Friday. “But behind it all is the hidden hand of Israel.”
Oy veh! It’s one thing to be an anti-Zionist, but when people start seeing “the hidden hand of Israel” lurking everywhere, they start to sound more like devotees of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
At this time, instead of obsessing about mischief emanating from the Jewish state, it might be more appropriate to be asking what “resistance” means if its backbone has been provided by Bashar al-Assad.