FSA Says Arrested 13 Hizbullah Fighters: Nasrallah Not Safe from Our Strikesإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The rebel Free Syrian Army on Tuesday claimed arresting 13 Hizbullah fighters in the countryside of the Syrian province of Homs, warning that it is capable of teaching Hizbullah a lesson in the heart of Dahiyeh, the party's main stronghold in Lebanon.
“Hizbullah is involved in the current clashes in Syria and its fighters are taking part in the ongoing battles,” Fahd al-Masri, head of the FSA Central Media Department, told MTV.
Masri's warning comes less than a week after a senior Hizbullah commander, who Syrian rebels said was killed in Syria, was buried in the Bekaa. Hizbullah has announced several similar burials in past months, without elaborating on the circumstances of its members' deaths.
The opposition March 14 camp and Syrian rebels have repeatedly accused Hizbullah of aiding the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad militarily.
“We hold Hizbullah fully responsible before its supporters and it must not implicate Lebanon and the Lebanese people in lost battles,” Masri added.
He reiterated the FSA's warning to “a specific religious community of the Lebanese people,” advising them not to let their sons “become the fuel of a war you are not part of.”
Masri announced that Syrian rebels managed to capture “13 Hizbullah fighters, in full combat gear, who were manning security and military checkpoints in Homs' countryside.”
“Therefore they were not on a religious or touristic or family visit to the region,” Masri noted.
“I believe their fate depends on Hizbullah's leadership, should it withdraw its fighters from Syrian territory and stop violating Syria's sovereignty, killing the Syrians and repressing the glorious Syrian revolution,” the spokesman added.
The FSA official accused Hizbullah of being “steeped up to its ears in crime” and of “executing the instructions of its masters in Tehran.”
Masri warned that “the Syrian people will not forget those who are harming them, and there will be a severe punishment against anyone harming the Syrian people.”
“We warn Hizbullah that if it does not stop, we are capable of teaching it a lesson it will not forget in the heart of Dahiyeh, and we tell (Hizbullah chief Sayyed) Hassan Nasrallah: we know how to find you and you are not safe from our strikes, you and all the leaders of your gang,” Masri added.
A Hizbullah commander and several fighters have been killed inside Syria, a Lebanese security official told the Associated Press last week, a development that could stoke already soaring tensions over an alleged role for the Lebanese group in the civil war next door.
Hizbullah has stood by Syrian President Bashar Assad since the uprising began 18 months ago, even after the group supported revolts in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Bahrain. The group says it is backing the Syrian regime because of its support for the anti-Israel resistance movements in Lebanon and Palestine and because it is willing to implement political reforms.
It was not immediately clear how the alleged Hizbullah militants were killed or whether they had been fighting alongside the Syrian army. But Hizbullah's newspaper al-Intiqad said Hizbullah commander Ali Hussein Nassif, who is also known as Abu Abbas, was killed "while performing his jihadi duties." It did not say when or where he was killed.
A Lebanese security official told AP Nassif was killed in Syria and his body was returned to Lebanon through the Masnaa border crossing on Sunday. Speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, the official said the bodies of several other Hizbullah fighters have been brought back to Lebanon in recent days.
Hizbullah spokesman Ibrahim al-Moussawi last Tuesday confirmed the deaths of the Hizbullah members but said he had no further information on where or how Nassif was killed. He declined further comment.
Nassif's funeral, which was held in the eastern town of Budai, near Baalbek, was attended by top Hizbullah officials including the head of the Sharia council and the political bureau, an indication of Nassif's high prestige, according to AP.
Last Tuesday, Hizbullah's al-Manar TV showed the funerals of at least two other Hizbullah members it said were killed while performing their "jihadi duty." Both funerals were attended by Hizbullah officials and commanders.
Samer al-Homsi, an activist in Syria's central Homs province, which borders Lebanon, said Nassif was killed Saturday when a roadside bomb went off as the car he was in passed just outside the town of Qusayr. He said Nassif and several other people were killed in the blast.
"His job was to coordinate with Syrian security agencies," al-Homsi told AP via Skype.
He added that the rebels detonated the bomb "without knowing" that the target was a Hizbullah official. "We knew he was a Hizbullah official after it was announced by the group in Lebanon," he said. Al-Homsi's account could not be independently verified.