Hezbollah involvement in the Syrian Civil War
Hezbollah involvement in the Syrian Civil War has been substantial since the beginning of armed insurgency phase of the Syrian Civil War, and turned into active support and troop deployment from 2012 onwards. By 2014, Hezbollah involvement begun to turn steady in support of Syrian Ba'athist Government forces across Syria. Hezbollah deployed several thousand fighters in Syria and by 2015 lost up to 1500 fighters in combat. Hezbollah has also been very active to prevent rebel penetration from Syria to Lebanon, being one of the most active forces in the Syrian Civil War spillover in Lebanon.
|Hezbollah involvement in the Syrian Civil War|
|Part of the Syrian Civil War and Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict|
Current military situation, as of January 22, 2018:
(For a clickable version of the map without shaded areas, see here
|Casualties and losses|
In the past, Hezbollah has served a strategic arm of Iran in the region, allegedly playing a key role in the Iran-Israel and Iran-Saudi Arabia proxy conflicts in the middle east. In a number of occasions, Hezbollah weapon convoys in Syria and Syrian-Lebanese border areas were attacked, with Israel being the main suspected party behind most such attacks, though Israel did not claim responsibility except for the March 2017 Israel–Syria incident. Hezbollah convoys have also been attacked by Syrian rebel factions, most notably the Al-Nusra Front.
Timeline of Hezbollah deployment in SyriaEdit
Hezbollah has long been an ally of the Ba'ath government of Syria, led by the Al-Assad family. Hezbollah has helped the Syrian Ba'ath government during the Syrian civil war in its fight against the Syrian opposition, which Hezbollah has described as a "plot to destroy its alliance with al-Assad against Israel". Geneive Abdo opined that Hezbollah's support for al-Assad in the Syrian war has "transformed" it from a group with "support among the Sunni for defeating Israel in a battle in 2006" into a "strictly Shia paramilitary force".
In August 2012, the United States sanctioned Hezbollah for its alleged role in the war. General Secretary Nasrallah denied Hezbollah had been fighting on behalf of the Syrian Ba'ath government, stating in an October 12, 2012, speech that "right from the start the Syrian opposition has been telling the media that Hizbullah sent 3,000 fighters to Syria, which we have denied". However, according to the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper, Nasrallah said in the same speech that Hezbollah fighters helped the Ba'athist government "retain control of some 23 strategically located villages [in Syria] inhabited by Shiites of Lebanese citizenship". Nasrallah said that Hezbollah fighters have died in Syria doing their "jihadist duties".
In 2012, Hezbollah fighters crossed the border from Lebanon and took over eight villages in the Al-Qusayr District of Syria. On February 16–17, 2013, Syrian opposition groups claimed that Hezbollah, backed by the Syrian military, attacked three neighboring Sunni villages controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA). An FSA spokesman said, "Hezbollah's invasion is the first of its kind in terms of organisation, planning and coordination with the Syrian regime's air force". Hezbollah said three Lebanese Shiites, "acting in self-defense", were killed in the clashes with the FSA. Lebanese security sources said that the three were Hezbollah members. In response, the FSA allegedly attacked two Hezbollah positions on February 21; one in Syria and one in Lebanon. Five days later, it said it destroyed a convoy carrying Hezbollah fighters and Syrian officers to Lebanon, killing all the passengers.
The leaders of the March 14 alliance and other prominent Lebanese figures called on Hezbollah to end its involvement in Syria and said it is putting Lebanon at risk. Subhi al-Tufayli, Hezbollah's former leader, said "Hezbollah should not be defending the criminal regime that kills its own people and that has never fired a shot in defense of the Palestinians". He said "those Hezbollah fighters who are killing children and terrorizing people and destroying houses in Syria will go to hell". The Consultative Gathering, a group of Shia and Sunni leaders in Baalbek-Hermel, also called on Hezbollah not to "interfere" in Syria. They said, "Opening a front against the Syrian people and dragging Lebanon to war with the Syrian people is very dangerous and will have a negative impact on the relations between the two". Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, also called on Hezbollah to end its involvement and claimed that "Hezbollah is fighting inside Syria with orders from Iran". Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi condemned Hezbollah by saying, "We stand against Hezbollah in its aggression against the Syrian people. There is no space or place for Hezbollah in Syria". Support for Hezbollah among the Syrian public has weakened since the involvement of Hezbollah and Iran in propping up the Assad regime during the civil war.
According to the U.S., the Assad loyalist militia known as al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi was created and is maintained by Hezbollah and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, both of whom provide it with money, weapons, training and advice.
On May 12, 2013, Hezbollah with the Syrian army attempted to retake part of Qusayr. In Lebanon, there has been "a recent increase in the funerals of Hezbollah fighters" and "Syrian rebels have shelled Hezbollah-controlled areas."
On May 25, 2013, Nasrallah announced that Hezbollah is fighting in the Syrian Civil War against Islamic extremists and "pledged that his group will not allow Syrian militants to control areas that border Lebanon". He confirmed that Hezbollah was fighting in the strategic Syrian town of Al-Qusayr on the same side as Assad's forces. In the televised address, he said, "If Syria falls in the hands of America, Israel and the takfiris, the people of our region will go into a dark period."
On May 26, 2013, two rockets hit a Hezbollah area of Beirut injuring five people whilst another two rockets caused property damage to buildings in the al-Hermel district of Beirut. Syrian rebels have been blamed for the attack as they had promised to attack Hezbollah targets in Lebanon in retaliation for their helping the Syrian army particularly in the border town of Al-Qusayr. Syrian rebels have also shelled al-Hermel previously.
In early June 2013, Hezbollah has now committed fighters to the battle in Aleppo, some 2,000, reportedly putting strain on the organisation. This has resulted in Hezbollah introducing a change to its rotation policy for its fighters from 7 days fighting followed by 7 days leave, Hezbollah has increased it to 20 days fighting and followed by 7 days leave for its fighters.
In 2014, Hezbollah involvement was steady and staunch in support of the Ba'athist government forces across Syria.
In January 2015, Free Syrian Army groups and al-Qaeda's al-Nusra Front launched an offensive against Hezbollah strongholds in the Jayrud area in the western Qalamoun Mountains, near the Lebanese border. Media sources affiliated with the Syrian opposition report that the joint forces targeted a series of military checkpoints held by Hezbollah in the area surrounding the village of Flaita in Kalamoon. Heavy losses were reported in the ranks of the pro-Assad security forces and militants of Hezbollah, as the FSA rebels seized a number of heavy and light weapons as well as boxes of ammunition during the operation. At least three FSA fighters were killed. A military official of al-Nusra reported that the ISIS presence in the area has exceeded 700 men, amid fears of escalating violence between both groups.
Given that most of Hezbollah's battles are with Muslims, for public relations purposes, Hezbollah has emphasized its readiness to wage war against Israel.
In the March 2017 Israel–Syria incident, Israel took responsibility for an airstrike in Syria on a military site near Palmyra that they said was targeting Hezbollah. The Syrian Arab Army reportedly launched S-200 missiles at the Israeli jets, and Israel intercepted one S-200 missile with an Arrow 2 missile.
|April 2017 Rif Dimashq airstrike|
|Part of Hezbollah involvement in the Syrian Civil War|
|Planned by||Israeli Air Force (alleged)|
|Target||Arms depot carrying Iranian arms bound for Hezbollah|
|Date||27 April 2017
03:20 EEST (UTC+03:00)
|Executed by||Allegedly Israeli Air Force|
|Outcome||Fuel tank and warehouses damaged|
The April 2017 Rif Dimashq airstrike was an aerial attack on an arms depot belonging to the Lebanese Shi'a militia Hezbollah. On 27 April 2017, Syria's state-run SANA news agency said that there was an explosion felt in Damascus International Airport at 3:42 am. No casualties were reported. The blast was reportedly felt 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) away. Israeli media said residents in the northern town of Safed reported seeing two missiles being launched and explosions occurring afterwards. Witnesses said a total of five strikes occurred near the airport road. The missiles were so powerful that the impact was felt several kilometres away in the Damascus countryside.
According to Al-Manar Television, the Israel Air Force reportedly attacked an Iranian arms depot near the Damascus International Airport early Thursday morning. Various sources have mentioned that the attack was executed around 03:20 EEST. The spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on the airstrike.  The Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz hinted on possible responsibility for the explosion, telling Army Radio that "The incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel's policy to act to prevent Iran's smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah. Two rebel sources told Reuters that "five strikes hit an ammunition depot used by Iran-backed militias." Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan told Rossiya-24 news channel that Israel "should be disarmed" for the sake of restoring peace and security in the region and that it had [pursued] nothing but war and bloodshed. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called for all countries to refrain any kind of actions and respect of Syrian sovereignty in a press conference. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova later slammed the strikes by condemning it as an act of aggression against Syria.
On 1 June 2017, it was announced that 3 Hezbollah members, including a Lebanese Hezbollah Field Commander Abdel Hamid Mahmoud Shri (nicknamed Abu Mahdi), had been killed by FSA and ISIS in battles for control of the desert between Syria and Iraq.
On 21 July 2017, Hezbollah and the Syrian army launched an offensive against Salafist militants of Tahrir al-Sham (formerly al-Nusra Front) in the area of Juroud Arsal, on the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Arsal, aiming to drive Nusra militants from their last foothold along the Syria-Lebanon border. The offensive was undertaken on two fronts: near the Lebanese town of Arsal and the Syrian town of Fleita, into a mountainous area where Islamist militants had taken shelter among camps for Syrian refugees.
In September 2017, a Hezbollah commander said the group has 10,000 fighters in southern Syria ready to confront Israel.
Incidents involving Hezbollah fighters in SyriaEdit
- "Hizbullah's learning curve: Deadly experience". The Economist. 22 August 2015. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
- "Hizbullah's learning curve: Deadly experience". The Economist. 22 August 2015. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
- Barnard, Anne (July 9, 2013). "Car Bombing Injures Dozens in Hezbollah Section of Beirut". The New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2013.
Hezbollah has portrayed the Syrian uprising as an Israeli-backed plot to destroy its alliance with Mr. Assad against Israel.
- Abdo, Geneive (June 7, 2013). "Why Sunni-Shia conflict is worsening". June 7, 2013. cnn.com. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
- "US adds Hezbollah to Syria sanctions list". Al Jazeera. August 10, 2012.
- Drone flight over Israel: Nasrallah's latest surprise| arabamericannews.com| October 12, 2012]
- Hirst, David (October 23, 2012). "Hezbollah uses its military power in a contradictory manner". The Daily Star. Beirut.
- "Hezbollah fighters, Syrian rebels killed in border fighting". Al Arabiya. February 17, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2013.
- "Hezbollah condemned for 'attack on Syrian villages'". BBC News, February 18, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2013.
- "Baalbek figures urge Hezbollah to stop fighting in Syria". The Daily Star. February 25, 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
- "Syrian rebels claim successful attack on Hezbollah". The Times of Israel, February 26, 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
- "March 14, PSP slam Hezbollah activities in Syria". The Daily Star, February 19, 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
- "Hezbollah fighters dying in Syria will go to hell, Tufaili". Ya Libnan, February 26, 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
- "Rival Lebanese groups fighting in Syria: Jumblatt". The Daily Star, February 24, 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
- Morsi says Egypt cuts all ties with Damascus, calls for Syria no-fly zone. Russia Today, June 15, 2013. Retrieved June 16, 2013.
- Eshman, Rob. "Syrian wake-up." Jewish Journal. May 8, 2013. May 8, 2013.
- "U.S. blacklists al-Nusra Front fighters in Syria". CNN. December 12, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- Barnard, Anne; Saad, Hwaida (May 20, 2013). "Hezbollah Aids Syrian Military In a Key Battle". The New York Times. Retrieved September 4, 2013.
- Mroue, Bassej (May 25, 2013). "Hezbollah chief says group is fighting in Syria". Associated Press. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
- Abedine, Saad; Brumfield, Ben (May 26, 2013). "Rockets strike Beirut suburb as sectarian strife flares in Lebanon, Syria". CNN. Retrieved September 4, 2013.
- "Two rockets hit Beirut's southern suburbs". Al Jazeera English. May 29, 2013. Retrieved September 4, 2013.
- Sherlock, Ruth (May 28, 2013). "Syria: rebels cling on to Qusayr". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved September 4, 2013.
- Morris, Loveday (June 2, 2013). "In Syria, Hezbollah forces appear ready to attack rebels in city of Aleppo". Washington Post. Retrieved September 4, 2013.
- Syrian rebels report gains against Hezbollah in Kalamoon. January 3, 2015. Ara News. Retrieved 2015-01-22.
- Mitch Ginsburg, Hezbollah focuses PR on Israel, to deflect from its killing of Muslims in Syria, Times of Israel, 24 May 2015
- "Hizbullah's military commander is killed". The Economist. 13 May 2016. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
- CNN, Oren Liebermann and Euan McKirdy. "Israeli jets strike inside Syria; evade anti-aircraft missiles". CNN. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
- "Syrian media: Israel attacked installation near Damascus".
- "Report: Israel attacked Iranian arms depot near Damascus airport". Ynetnews. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
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- "Israel strikes Iran-supplied arms depot near Damascus airport".
- "Iranian Defense Minister Believes Israel Should Be 'Completely Disarmed'". Sputnik International. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
- "Russia condemns alleged Israeli missile strike in Syria". Times of Israel. 27 April 2017.
- https://twitter.com/QalaatAlMudiq/status/870367328101445633. Missing or empty
- https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/870115053101568001. Missing or empty
- Hezbollah, Syria army launch attack on Lebanon border
- Hezbollah and Syrian army advance in border offensive: reports Reuters, 22 July 2017.
- Hezbollah and Syrian Army Attack Islamists on Lebanon Border NYT, 21 July 2017.
- "Syrian rebels near Israel border ordered to surrender by regime forces".
- Leith Fadel (4 July 2015). "Syrian Armed Forces and Hezbollah Suffocate Al-Qaeda in Al-Zabadani". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 16 July 2015.
- Leith Fadel (24 July 2015). "Syrian Army and Hezbollah Advance in Southern Al-Zabadani". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 9 August 2015.
- "Iran keeps dark loss of its top general in Syria. Syrian Army starts closing in on ISIS-held Palmyra". Retrieved 22 July 2015.
- Edward. "Shells target the capital, wound in a shelling by the regime forces on Darayya city and violet clashes in the area and al-Zabadani city". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Archived from the original on 11 August 2015. Retrieved 9 August 2015.
- Leith Fadel (7 July 2015). "Syrian Armed Forces and Hezbollah Close-in on Al-Zabadani". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 16 July 2015.
- "Syrian army, Hezbollah advance in city near Lebanese border". Retrieved 15 July 2015.
- Leith Fadel. "Al-Zabadani Pocket Becomes Smaller and Smaller: Rebels Isolated from Supply Lines". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
- Leith Fadel (15 August 2015). "Jaysh Al-Islam Announces an Offensive to Retake Lost Ground in Al-Zabadani". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 15 August 2015.