Asir, Rafehi to Send Fighters for 'Jihad' in Syria's Qusayr

Islamist cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir, the imam of Sidon's Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, on Monday announced the creation of the “Free Resistance Brigades,” urging whoever is capable of heading to Syria to go there to aid “the oppressed” in Qusayr and Homs.

Asir called on “all the Lebanese who fear attacks by Iran's party (Hizbullah) in Lebanon to arm themselves and form 5-member secret cells in order to be ready to exclusively defend themselves and their families should the need arise.”

He also called for fundraising in order to finance jihadist fighters seeking to enter Syria “to support our people.”

Meanwhile, Salafist cleric Sheikh Salem al-Rafehi of Tripoli announced that he has decided to “send men and weapons in support of our Sunni brothers in Qusayr.”

He called on "all Sunni men to be fully prepared ahead of sending the first batch (of fighters) to perform the jihadist duty in Qusayr.”

Addressing President Michel Suleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati, Rafehi added: “Your silence over Hizbullah's interference and attacks against Lebanese and Syrians in Qusayr opens the doors of Lebanon to a sectarian strife.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Monday said elite fighters from Hizbullah are leading the fight against rebels in the region of Qusayr in the central province of Homs.

"It's Hizbullah that is leading the battle in Qusayr, with its elite forces," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France Presse.

"It's not necessarily fighters coming from Lebanon. It's Hizbullah fighters from Shiite villages on the Syrian side which are inhabited by Lebanese," he said.

Over the weekend, Syrian regime forces retook control of a string of strategic villages in the region, which is along the border with Lebanon.

That raised fears among rebels that the town of Qusayr itself, a stronghold of the uprising, could fall into government hands.

The Observatory said fighting was raging Monday morning between rebels and Hizbullah fighters around several other villages in the area, leaving two rebels dead.

In the past, Hizbullah has insisted that its members fighting in Homs province were Shiite residents of Syrian border towns engaged in self-defense against rebel forces. The group has not commented on the intensified fighting near Qusayr.

Fighting in the area has spilled over into Lebanon, with rebels targeting border towns in the Lebanese region of Hermel in response to Hizbullah involvement in the conflict.

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