Hezbollah fighter details ops in Qusayr
Hezbollah's implication in the nearby Syrian war has been reported by numerous media outlets. In order to discuss the real scope and depth of the party's involvement in the Syrian conflict, NOW talks to Hezbollah fighter Abou Ali, who has been deployed to Qusayr.
Why are you fighting in Syria?
Syria has supported the resistance for over 30 years, we need to remain loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Don't you worry that Hezbollah's involvement in Syria will significantly weaken Hezbollah? Do you believe that you can still fight Israel while waging war on another major front?
People have to understand that Hezbollah is now a regional party. The war in Syria is a preemptive strike on an enemy that was going to export the Syrian conflict into Lebanon; and Hezbollah will not allow for its military and strategic interests to be threatened without responding to such a threat. It will also not enter a war unless it is sure it can win it. Hezbollah can still fight simultaneously on three fronts: in Syria, in the south against Israel, as well as internally. We are expecting to fight a war internally because we feel that those [foreign backers] who are spending money locally are now going to make use of it. All the indicators point in that direction.
Does the war waged by Hezbollah against the Syrian rebels bear any similarity with the war with Israel?
It's actually very different from Lebanon, with the exception of the battles of Bint Jbeil (in the south), where the terrain and towns with houses built very close together are in many ways similar to Qusayr. Elite and special forces that are now deployed in Qusayr are using the training in street fighting they received in Iran, which was done in mock cities specifically built for this purpose.
Who is Hezbollah fighting in Syria? Is it possible that in a country as big as Syria the rebellion might be solely comprised of foreigners?
Most militants I met were foreign fighters: Europeans, Gulf Arabs, Chechens, Jordanians, and even Filipinos from the Abu Sayyaf movement! Syrians only play a supporting and secondary role in the rebellion unless they fought in Iraq or Libya. These takfiris are savage enemies; they chop off their enemies' heads because they believe beheading will promote them (on earth and in heaven). Gulf Arabs are also respected by rebels because they are usually wealthy and can offer a certain financial support to brigades.
Jordanians and Somalis are those participating the most in suicide bombings.
Fighting in Qusayr has entered in its third week; why has it been so hard for you to take over the border area?
Qusayr was initially divided in 16 military areas, today an area of five blocks still remains in the control of rebels from the Nusra Front who have taken civilians hostage. We are trying to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible, which is slowing down the process. Rebels who are arrested are immediately transferred to the Syrian intelligence so that they can be used in hostage exchange operations.
Rebels are using guerrilla techniques against you in Qusayr. How are you responding to them and what weapons are being used?
We have called upon our specialists to neutralize the tunnel networks built by rebels in certain sectors of Qusayr. These specialists helped Hamas build their tunnel networks in Gaza. Tunnels usually have a basic structure, it is easy for specialists to understand how they work, and they are helping us to destroy them by booby-trapping access and exit points. Rebels have also booby-trapped houses, so the only way to secure a certain perimeter is by blowing up walls to make holes. We are also relying on massive air raids in our military operations to wear down the rebels. Weapons used are mortars, PKK, Dushka, Russian 75, 106, as well as 155.
Many Hezbollah fighters have died in Qusayr. Some have attributed the high death toll to the inexperience of fighters who were sent initially. Is it true?
No it's not. Reservists who were first sent to Qusayr had received from one month to three or six months training here in Lebanon. It is now the elite and special forces of Hezbollah who are fighting in Qusayr. Everyone who goes to fight in Syria has received a taklif sharii (a religious command).
Is Hezbollah present all over Syria?
At the beginning of the war, elite forces were initially responsible for protecting Shiite shrines. They have now been deployed in different Syrian areas. Besides Qusayr, we are now fighting in Aleppo and rural areas surrounding it, as well as the suburbs of Damascus, Hama, and Idlib. In the Damascus suburbs and Aleppo, we are leading similar operations than those launched in Qusayr due to the nature of the terrain.
Are Iranians fighting in Qusayr?
No, but there are Iraqis in certain Damascus areas more particularly around Shiite shrines.
What is Hezbollah's role in the current Syrian war? Is it collaborating with the regime's new People's Army?
Hezbollah is leading operations in Qusayr; the Syrian army is only playing a secondary role, deploying after an area is completely 'cleaned' and secured.
Hezbollah officers coordinate with the People's Army but fighters never interact. The People's Army is usually last to deploy after the Syrian army, as they have a better understanding of the area and its residents.
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