On Syria-Lebanon Border, Hizbullah in 'Hardest' Battle

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On a windy hilltop overlooking the mountainous Syrian border, a fighter from Hizbullah says the battle against militants in the area is among the toughest the group has ever faced.

The powerful movement, a key ally of the government in Damascus, has fought across Syria in the years since an uprising began in 2011.

In the past two weeks, Hizbullah says it has secured around a third of the Qalamoun region, territory on both the Lebanese and Syrian sides of the porous border.

"This is one of the hardest battles we have fought," said a Hizbullah fighter in Qalamoun, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Everyone knows that fighting in the mountains is the hardest kind of fighting there is, up there with fighting in cities."

The area of roughly 1,000 square kilometers is a landscape of imposing hillsides riddled with caves, and open valleys full of scrub and wildflowers.

"This is the most difficult battlefield in the Middle East right now," nodded another fighter, dressed like many in the area in desert-tone camouflage.

The fate of Qalamoun is particularly important for Hizbullah, which has long defended its intervention in Syria alongside President Bashar Assad's troops as key to the security of Lebanon.

- 'To protect Lebanon' -

In Qalamoun, that argument carries more weight because of the presence of jihadists from the Islamic State group and al-Qaida affiliate al-Nusra Front.

The two groups have infiltrated Lebanon in the past, and last August briefly overran the northeastern border town of Arsal.

They are still holding 25 soldiers and policemen hostage, and have executed four captives.

"Our goal in Qalamoun is to protect Lebanon, and we've seen the evidence of the threat in Arsal and the other attacks on the border," a Hizbullah military commander said.

In recent days, Hizbullah has provided unprecedented but carefully orchestrated media access to its fighters and positions in the Qalamoun region.

The tours begin with a briefing by a military commander, who uses a green laser pointer to illustrate on a projected digital map the necessity of securing the high ground to ensure line-of-fire sight over the area.

On the ground, an array of fighters lead convoys of journalists in SUVs across rocky terrain with little sign of life beyond a few birds and a scrambling lizard or two.

The trips include stops at bunkers captured from militants, where Hizbullah is eager to show the remains of homemade explosives, and cautious interactions with fighters, many of whom preferred to observe the visitors from a remove, some smoking quietly.

The outreach is a new approach for Hizbullah, which has generally preferred to keep coverage of its involvement in Syria's conflict confined to its official media outlets.

One member of the group said the new campaign was an attempt at both "psychological warfare" but also a form of public relations.

"This is psychological warfare that we hope will make the enemy afraid, but it's also a way for us to send our message to say that we're the good side."

That assertion is contested by Syria's opposition, which accuses Hizbullah of facilitating Damascus's attempts to put down an uprising that began with peaceful protests and spiraled into a war after a regime crackdown.

But while Hizbullah is listed as a "terrorist" organization by Washington, it is now fighting against some of the same jihadist groups being targeted by US-led air strikes in Syria and Iraq.

- Evidence of battles -

The Lebanese and Syrian armies are conspicuous by their absence in Qalamoun.

Hizbullah members avoid comment on the Lebanese army's role in the region, and insist Syria's army leads the fight inside its country.

"We fight from the Lebanese side and they fight from the Syrian side," a Hizbullah fighter identified as Hajj Nader said, standing several kilometers inside Syrian territory.

At several sites in the region, the evidence of battle was strewn on the ground.

Heavy machine gun casings and tubes that once held rocket shells lay alongside metal ammunition cases, their lids peeled back like sardine tins.

At some positions, Hizbullah fighters fired into the distance, and explosions they said were mines being cleared could be heard.

The fighters carried weapons included pistols, Kalashnikov rifles and at least one M4 mounted with a grenade launcher.

Some sported patches on their uniform invoking Shiite religious figures and Hizbullah's leader sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

"These aren't required. Everyone puts on what they want. You see, we're not an army, we're just regular guys," one fighter said.

Comments 45
Thumb ex-fpm 21 May 2015, 12:45

where is clint eastwood and his movie a fistful of dollars....LOL.

Thumb ex-fpm 21 May 2015, 12:48

MTV: The adviser of the Foreign Minister said Lebanese prisoners were set free by the IS in Palmyra and could head to Turkey.

Missing trend 21 May 2015, 13:09

IS = bad
HA = bad
Nusra = bad
basho = bad
[IS + HA + Nus + Basho] = Batikh y kasser ba3do
Simple equation

Thumb Mystic 21 May 2015, 13:56

The Resistance men of God, did what even nobody else couldn't. We can sleep safely at night knowing Gods men holds the line.

Thumb whyaskwhy 21 May 2015, 15:08

its getting to be like a broken record Mystic we have all heard the slogans before about defeating the zionist and the infadel and now the Syrian and Isis yadda yadda yadda. Tell those stories to mothers who have lost their children and you will find that if they can read or write they would tell you its all a waste. Kizb is involved in a war it cannot win and will continue to place young mindless people in harms way, why? to defeat Israel or Isis or coconut same story you keep telling your uneducated followers who are bred to kill and die for their gods but never to live for them.

Thumb -phoenix1 21 May 2015, 15:08

(1). My dear Mystic, ya habibi ya akhi, if only I could agree with you, I would then sleep well and safely at night, knowing God's men hold the line. God's men my dear brother are innocent people like you and me, going to their daily chores laden daily with their concerns for their loved ones. men of God are those brave men and women of the Lebanese Army whose only noble aim is defend their land and their people, all the people irrespective of sect, color, gender, social class or anything, just the land and its people. When they die in action, we hear Church bells ring, or the Muazin of our Mosques. Yes Mystic, I am one who still attaches the greatest respect for our martyrs, ours, yours, all the sons and daughters of Lebanon. But ya Mystic, if we can shed away that old story of Hezbollah gone to fight in foreign lands to prevent Takfiris form invading us, isn't the precious blood of these brave men spilled in vain?

Thumb -phoenix1 21 May 2015, 20:42

Mystic, the LF is always honorable, now if you wish to keep digging into the past, I'll have to be absolutely frank with you. Your people were amongst those that hid under the skirts of Hafez Al Assad and Yasser Arafat, especially when Arafat claimed that he will throw us to the sea within 6 days, because we were mostly Foufous and Zouzous. ma3leych ya akh, I know of many Metwelehs who called their sons at the time Yasser, many and Hafez like they did with Jamal during Nasser's era. You write as if you had no sins my friend, in that case if you're so sure, here I am offering you the first stone to cast.

Thumb -phoenix1 21 May 2015, 15:14

(2). Mystic. Today as we write, some more areas of Syria have fallen to the Takfiris, Palmyra one of them, and before Palmyra, its people have fled with the regime army that once defended it. With or without Hezbollah, Syria's fate is being decided by forces beyond us. Hezbollah ventured too far, never wanting to listen to reason or wisdom. Fact is, Qalamoun, means that now you're coming back home, your only way in fact. But those killed in Syria, who can replace them? Show me, an ex-LF fighter, a military map that can convince me of the benefits of HA's actions in Syria, if I can read it and be convinced, purely as an ex-fighter myself then yes, I will sleep at night feeling safe, but this map to me falls very short of reassurance. The Takfiris are in fact attacking Lebanon to convince you people to leave Syria.

Thumb Mystic 21 May 2015, 17:37

Here are some honorable Christians, that are real fighters for their religion, unlike you phalangists Phoenix, whom sold yourselves to the West, Gulf and Israel.

http://www.ibtimes.com/christians-threatened-isis-lebanon-turn-hezbollah-help-1889610

Thumb -phoenix1 21 May 2015, 15:19

(3). Mystic. Are the Takfiris that dumb to try their luck inside Lebanon? Sure, they tried, not only did they burn their fingers but they got them grilled right to the bone marrow. The Takfiris know know perfectly well what awaits them here in Lebanon, believe me ya akhi, the smell of grilled meat with spread all over the border with Syria, the world will see how we shall dispense horror on the Takfiris and trust me, this is not a joke. But HA did its sums wrong, had you people listened to us rejoined the national fold, we Lebanese would have not only been today united, prosperous, strong but Formidable. As the Syrian regime regresses, and as does Hezbollah, we Lebanese remain strong and the army will do the job, and we the people will stand behind our army, but Hezbollah will be changed forever.

Thumb Mystic 21 May 2015, 16:59

If you were a Lebanese sibling Phoenix, then you wouldn't stab them in the back whilst they are holding takfiris at bay, those takfiris whom are willing to remove your head from your body, because that is what you are doing.

Thumb Mystic 21 May 2015, 17:34

So the Mostaqbali supporters that chopped people up in Halba massacre 2008, were unarmed civilian people? Sounds like the same magic you used in Syria - "Liberty loving FSA" whom turned ISIS and Nusra.

Still accusing without proof aswell, so where are we? Right your opinion doesn't matter, because the Resistance will never pull out before the takfiris are finished, that might be until Judgement day for all I know.

Point is, it is the war for all our lives. All the people that the takfiris will slaughter if they invade Lebanon. Lebanese Army would be overrun, most of the Christians (Phoenix included) would flee immediately when they realized Hariri couldn't protect him.

That leaves the rest of us, with no other option than to fight to the end, and also those honorable people from all sects that are ready to defend themselves and their families.

Missing peace 21 May 2015, 17:43

"So the Mostaqbali supporters that chopped people up in Halba massacre 2008"

stop crying... when you provoke people and take up arms you really believe no one will react? ... unfortunately there are idiots everywhere, and those who did that should be put in jail just like your hezbi militiamen and their allies who killed people also in 2008...
you use the very same technique as the syrian regime: set up a fire then come and cry your are attacked to justify your crimes LOL

just like in syria: bashar killed people and push them to their limits and still he expected no one would react... look what he has done now to his country LOL
you are even more naive than i thought....

Thumb Mystic 21 May 2015, 17:54

So now I'm crying? Didn't you just write that they were innocent unarmed civilians in a moaning manner?
No wonder the Resistance smacked March 14 gunmen so hard in 2008, that they had to act as civilians after.

Civilians don't chop people up.

Thumb Mystic 21 May 2015, 17:54

So now I'm crying? Didn't you just write that they were innocent unarmed civilians in a moaning manner?
No wonder the Resistance smacked March 14 gunmen so hard in 2008, that they had to act as civilians after.

Civilians don't chop people up.

Thumb -phoenix1 21 May 2015, 20:38

Mystic, I NEVER stabbed anyone in the back, don't twist your tongue to the point you start saying things you mustn't.

Thumb Mystic 21 May 2015, 21:45

I don't believe you Phoenix, I'm not talking by the way, I'm writing you. So don't mention tongues on this matter, since we are not face to face.
The very fact, that you are against the Resistance fighting in Syria and supporting the Western/Gulfs stances means you are a backstabber.

Missing peace 21 May 2015, 21:54

"The very fact, that you are against the Resistance fighting in Syria and supporting the Western/Gulfs stances means you are a backstabber"

we may "backstab" your iranain militia but your iranian militia backstabs Lebanon.....

Thumb Mystic 21 May 2015, 22:07

Just like you are backstabbing the Lebanese Army in the back peace? Holding them in a tight leash, preventing them from purging Arsal.

Phoenix, other reason I mention backstabbing is - I actually respect the people that insults me, more than the false people that change colors and acts friendly while insulting me indirectly.

You know this quote? "Don't fear the enemy that attacks you but the fake friend that hugs you."

Missing peace 21 May 2015, 22:13

you should apply to be an expert in the LAF because it seems you know better than them what to do...

a big mouth that is all you are....nothing to fear from you, coz barking dogs never bite....

Thumb Mystic 21 May 2015, 23:20

Funny peace, because that is exactly what we say about March 14 people in my circles of people.
Never fear a dog that lost it's teeth, like the resistance smacked yours out in 2008 and you never collected those teeth ever again.

You have nothing to fear from me, because you are not a threat yourself my friend, so don't write rubbish and act macho on Naharnet now.

Now you just wait for the takfiris to do your work, which they will also fail.

Missing peace 21 May 2015, 23:29

we know hezbis take their pride into smacking lebanese that are against them... we know you love to do the job of the army on which you daily spit on and mock...the pride of cowards...

we know you are liars... many promises on handing your weapons to the only true lebanese armed forces but none of them you ever kept...

you may shout you love Lebanon but your actions prove the contrary... so keep shouting, it is all you are good at.

and keep up your propaganda, it makes you more ridiculous each day...

Missing peace 22 May 2015, 01:36

and here comes another hezbi lover with the intellectual level of a clam...

Thumb thepatriot 21 May 2015, 15:43

lol mastika
You're a caricature of yourself!

Thumb Mystic 21 May 2015, 19:15

Wrote the guy with the mask.

Thumb Mystic 21 May 2015, 16:02

History will remember how the cowards of March 14 supported the enemy against the Resistance of Lebanon.

How their empty words and threats meant nothing, how the Resistance carried on till the end.

Missing peace 21 May 2015, 16:10

do not mix in your twisted mind that being against your iranian militia means one is with the islamists...

pityful binary M8 thinking.

Missing mohammad_ca 22 May 2015, 03:00

Men of God lol sounds like ISIS BS

Thumb -phoenix1 21 May 2015, 13:59

A noble resistance now turned real villain. A noble liberator of the South now turned the worst threat the country has ever known. A cocky and truly arrogant militia that has long ceased to be Lebanese but foreign. Hezbollah is today paying the high price for all these, especially for remaining hard-headed in listening to reason and wisdom from its Lebanese siblings. Qalamoun is known to be the artery of the Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad, and by default that of Hezbollah and the very interests of Iran in this region. They said recently that they retook all of Qalamoun, now they say a 3rd of it. Hezbollah must now stop its stories, if together with Regime forces and Iranian forces it can barely hold on to territory so crucial to it, how on earth could it fight Israel or even more sordid, how can it aim to liberate Shebaa, or the Golan or Jerusalem? Facts are hard to accept, but nowadays anyone who is in the know should see the real situation of a fake story kept just for too long.

Thumb lebnanfirst 21 May 2015, 17:06

@-phoenix1
So true an assessment of the course of events should give HA pause one would hope to no avail. HA and those in its orbit have yet to realize the illogical argument put forward by Nasrallah vis a vis preemptive attacks on takfiris. Nothing about that argument fits Lebanese interests and it only makes sense in the context of the Iranians, Alawites and HA's goal to have a corridor linking Hizballastan to Alawistan pure and simple.
The likes of @mystic & @sab3a-ayar et al are clear proof of a raging Islamic conflict between Sunnis & Shiites in the region. Voices like ours calling for upholding mixed communal life in our beloved Lebanon are falling on deaf ears.
Those who are cheering HA's actions would do well to heed the Chinese proverb: "When one goes seeking revenge one must dig two graves, one for his enemy and one for himself".

Missing peace 21 May 2015, 17:33

the "resistance" has nothing to do with enjoying freedom! but hezbi lovers of course love to believe that, part of their brainwashing program....LOL

Thumb whyaskwhy 21 May 2015, 15:09

Meanwhile I pin was heard dropping on the Israeli border today. I am sure pretty soon the IDF will consider giving their troops the weekend off....so that they can watch Kizb liberate Palestine from Syrianam.

Thumb beiruti 21 May 2015, 15:31

"Our goal in Qalamoun is to protect Lebanon, and we've seen the evidence of the threat in Arsal and the other attacks on the border," a Hizbullah military commander said."
"'You see, we're not an army, we're just regular guys,' one fighter said."
The first is a BS statement. The second is an MBS statement.

Hezbollah is in Qalamoun fighting in order to keep Highway 5 which connects Damascus to Homs to Tartous open so that it can keep itself resupplied. It is not in Qalamoun for Lebanon but for Hezbollah.

As to Hezbollah not being a regular army, well, the snow is off of that BS for all to see.

Missing bigjohn 21 May 2015, 16:07

Well, Damascus, Homs, and all areas in Western Syria (which is the most populated) are close to Lebanon and are the most important to the regime and HA. You allow to break off Damascus and have them get massacred than they will come after qalamoon and areas close to lebanon in greater strength since they no longer have to fight the pro-regime forces in Damascus.

Missing bigjohn 21 May 2015, 16:20

Deir zor is very far from Damascus and the very populated areas close to the Lebanese borders. But, that is exactly my point, if the pro-regime forces are forced to move west, then the battles will move even MORE west closer to the Lebanese border.

Missing bigjohn 21 May 2015, 16:13

"defeat Israel"? Like the ANC, Israel will be mostly defeated politically, and economically...But, also you have to RESIST Israeli aggression, otherwise you are condoning it. HA is the ONLY entity that does not allow Israel to attack the natives with IMPUNITY. Mandela's ANC was able to kill ONLY 100 whites (mostly civilians) over several decades and ONLY negotiated the end of the racist white state.

Missing bigjohn 21 May 2015, 16:16

I like to see the truly "moderate" opposition unite with the pro-regime forces to defeat Al Nusra, ISIL, Jash Al Sham, and all the extremist Sunni groups. The problem is that more than 90% of the ARMED "opposition" brigades are extremists united with Al Qaida against the Pro-regime forces. So what you really have here is Pro-regime forces fighting the Sunni Extremists groups. The training of several thousand FSA fighters by the West and their Arab partners which is taking many years will not make any significant difference.

Reply

Missing peace 21 May 2015, 16:35

the only one responsible for the chaos in syria is the assad regime... they can only blame themselves for having let the situation rot so that assad leaves only one choice : it s me or islamism... he encouraged those groups to develop in syria for that purpose but it got out of control so he had to call hezbollah and iran to the rescue!

if he had stepped down in time it wouldn't have gone like this!

Missing peace 21 May 2015, 17:04

tell that to your master bashar: he all started this.....

Missing peace 21 May 2015, 23:41

just educate yourself and you ll find plenty sources ...

Missing peace 21 May 2015, 17:06

nice vocabulary... it sums all what M8 is about....

Missing peace 21 May 2015, 17:25

could you avoid associating a religious sect with the word "pig"? refer to their political party instead...

many shias do not follow hezbollah nor iran....

Missing peace 21 May 2015, 17:35

good for admittting you see nothing wrong in cleaning Lebanon from those who disapprove of hezbollah... you summed up all the hezbi thinking in your desperate post...
there is no difference with sunni islamists!

Thumb chrisrushlau 21 May 2015, 18:12

Racism is suicidal and it starts with destroying your own senses.

Missing mohammad_ca 22 May 2015, 02:59

Burn in hell mofos