Tags: Lebanon | Hezbollah | Syria

Hezbollah Vows Victory against Extremists in Syria

Image: Hezbollah Vows Victory against Extremists in Syria Hassan Nasrallah

Sunday, 16 Feb 2014 10:41 PM

 

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The chief of Lebanon's Shiite movement Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, vowed on Sunday that the group would win against extremists fighting in neighboring Syria.

"We will win this battle, God willing," he insisted, after describing the group's role in the conflict in Syria as a fight against "takfiris" — extremist Sunni Muslims.

Hezbollah, a staunch ally of the Syrian regime, has dispatched fighters to the conflict to bolster government troops, finally admitting their presence in April 2013.

Nasrallah has regularly defended the decision by saying Hezbollah is countering jihadist fighters, although extremists make up only a portion of those fighting against President Bashar Assad.

He devoted much of the lengthy address to defending the group's involvement in Syria, which has drawn accusations from some in Lebanon that the group is entangling the country in the war next door.

"It's a question of time," he said of the group's victory in the fight.

"Planning and preparations... exist, but it's a question of time," he added during the televised address to commemorate the assassination of three senior Hezbollah members.

He described the fight in Syria, which a Britain-based NGO estimates has killed several hundred Hezbollah members, as a "decisive, historic battle".

Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian conflict has been controversial in Lebanon, where many Shiites back the Syrian regime and many Sunnis support the Sunni-dominated uprising.

The group's strongholds in Beirut and elsewhere have been targeted in a string of car and suicide bomb attacks, killing civilians, with jihadist groups saying the blasts are revenge for Hezbollah's role in the Syria conflict.

Nasrallah said the attacks, and others in Syria against religious minorities, proved that the group needed to fight extremism in Syria to protect Lebanon.

"If the armed groups control Syria, what will Lebanon's future be?" he asked.

"Where are your priests, where are your nuns, where are your statues of the Virgin Mary?" he added, referring to Syrian priests and nuns kidnapped by extremists, who have also desecrated churches.

"This is a danger that threatens all Lebanese... If they (jihadists) have the opportunity to control the border regions, their goal will be to transform Lebanon into a part of their Islamic state," he said.

He added, in apparent reference to both Hezbollah's losses in Syria and the spate of car bombs targeting it, that the battle "merits... us assuming the consequences".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights NGO says at least 275 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Syria, where they are currently battling rebels in the Qalamun region near the border with Lebanon.

This week Syria's army, reportedly backed by Hezbollah fighters, has launched operations to seize the last rebel stronghold in the region, the town of Yabrud.

Both Hezbollah and the Lebanese army have said several of the car bombs sent into Lebanon have originated in the town.

© AFP 2014

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