Hezbollah involvement in the Syrian Civil War

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Hezbollah involvement in the Syrian Civil War
Part of the Syrian Civil War and Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict
Syrian, Iraqi, and Lebanese insurgencies.png
Current military situation, as of May 31, 2016:
(For a clickable version of the map without shaded areas, see here
Date 2011–present
Location Syria
Result Ongoing
Casualties and losses
≈1,500 killed[1]

Hezbollah involvement in the Syrian Civil War has been substantial almost since the beginning of armed insurgency in late 2011, and turned into active support and troops deployment since 2012. By 2014, Hezbollah involvement was steady and staunch in support of the Ba'athist government forces across Syria.[2] Hezbollah deployed several thousand fighters in Syria and by 2015 lost up to 2000 fighters killed and 5000 wounded in its support to the Syrian Ba'athist side. 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.

In addition, Hezbollah has served a strategic arm of Iran in Syria and Lebanon, allegedly playing a key role in the Iran-Israel proxy conflict in the region. In a number of occasions, Hezbollah weapon convoys in Syria were attacked, with Israel being the main suspected party behind most such attacks, though Israel has never claimed responsibility. Hezbollah convoys have also been attacked by Syrian rebels, most notably the Al-Nusra Front.

Timeline of Hezbollah deployment in Syria

2011-12

Hezbollah has long been an ally of the Ba'ath government of Syria, led by the Al-Assad family. Hezbollah has helped the Syrian 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".[3] 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".[4]

In August 2012, the United States sanctioned Hezbollah for its alleged role in the war.[5] General Secretary Nasrallah denied Hezbollah had been fighting on behalf of the Syrian 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".[6] However, according to the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper, Nasrallah said in the same speech that Hezbollah fighters helped the Syrian 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".[7]

In 2012, Hezbollah fighters crossed the border from Lebanon and took over eight villages in the Al-Qusayr District of Syria.[8] 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.[8][9] Lebanese security sources said that the three were Hezbollah members.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] 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".[13] 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".[10] Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, also called on Hezbollah to end its involvement[12] and claimed that "Hezbollah is fighting inside Syria with orders from Iran".[14] 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".[15] 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.[16]

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.[17]

2013

On May 12, 2013, Hezbollah with the Syrian army attempted to retake part of Qusayr.[18] In Lebanon, there has been "a recent increase in the funerals of Hezbollah fighters" and "Syrian rebels have shelled Hezbollah-controlled areas."[18]

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".[19] He confirmed that Hezbollah was fighting in the strategic Syrian town of Al-Qusayr on the same side as Assad's forces.[19] 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."[19]

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.[20][21]

On May 28, 2013, Free Syrian Army General Salim Idris gave Hezbollah "24 hours to withdraw from Syria" or he may order FSA units to attack Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.[22]

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.[23]

2014

In 2014, Hezbollah involvement was steady and staunch in support of the Ba'athist government forces across Syria.[2]

2015

In January 2015, the FSA and al-Nusra Front launched an offensive against Hezbollah strongholds in the Jirud Fleita area, of western Kalamoon, 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.[24]

Given that most of Hezbollah's battles are with Muslims, for public relations purposes, Hezbollah has emphasized its readiness to wage war against Israel.[25]

2016

In May, Hezbollah's top military commander in Syria, Mustafa Badreddine, was killed under cloudy circunstances.[26]

Incidents involving Hezbollah fighters in Syria

Date Event Location Pro Government Forces Anti-Regime Forces Hezbollah fatalities Outcome
May 2011-May 2014 Siege of Homs Homs  Syria
Hezbollah
Free Syrian Army
Al-Nusra Front
Unknown Victory
Jan-Feb 2012 Battle of Zabadani (2012) Rif Dimashq  Syria
Hezbollah
Free Syrian Army unknown Victory
Feb-Apr 2012 Battle of al-Qusayr (2012) Homs  Syria
Hezbollah
Free Syrian Army 1+ Stalemate
July 2012 – present Battle of Aleppo Aleppo  Syria
IRGC
Hezbollah
23x15px Badr Organisation
Flag of the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council.svg SRCC
Al-Nusra Front
28+[27] Ongoing
31 January 2013 January 2013 Rif Dimashq airstrike Rif Dimashq  Syria
Hezbollah
Allegedly IAF unknown
April 2013 - June 2013 Al-Qusayr offensive Rif Dimashq  Syria
Hezbollah
Free Syrian Army
Al-Nusra Front
140 Decisive Victory
May 2013 May 2013 Rif Dimashq airstrikes Rif Dimashq  Syria
Hezbollah
Allegedly IAF unknown
Nov-Dec 2013 Battle of Qalamoun Homs  Syria
Hezbollah
Free Syrian Army

Al-Nusra Front
Green Battalion


ISIL

47 - 140 Decisive Victory
December 2014 December 2014 Rif Dimashq airstrike Rif Dimashq  Syria
Hezbollah
Allegedly IAF 3
January 2015 January 2015 Mazraat Amal incident Quneitra Hezbollah Allegedly IAF or Al-Nusra Front 6
3 July 2015-ongoing Battle of Zabadani (2015) Zabadani District of the Rif Dimashq Governorate Syria Syrian Arab Republic

Hezbollah
 Iran

Emblem of the Palestine Liberation Army.svg Palestine Liberation Army[31]

Jaysh al-Haramoun[32]

Flag of Syria (1932-1958; 1961-1963).svg Free Syrian Army[34]
Islamic Front[35]
(Joined August 15)

60-108 killed Ceasefire, Significant Gains
October 2015- December 2015 Aleppo offensive (October–December 2015) Aleppo  Syria
IRGC
Hezbollah
23x15px Badr Organisation
Flag of the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council.svg SRCC
Al-Nusra Front
unknown Victory
February 2016 Northern Aleppo offensive (2016) Aleppo  Syria
Hezbollah
IRGC-Seal.svg IRGC
al-Nusra Front
SRCC
3 Victory

See also

References

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  2. 2.0 2.1 [1]
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  4. Abdo, Geneive (June 7, 2013). "Why Sunni-Shia conflict is worsening". June 7, 2013. cnn.com. Retrieved September 12, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  6. Drone flight over Israel: Nasrallah's latest surprise| arabamericannews.com| October 12, 2012]
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  27. [2]
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