Report: Hezbollah begins to withdraw some troops from Syria

October 4, 2013 15:19

Sources close to Hezbollah deny withdrawal due to political pressure, claim it is due to "tactical considerations on the ground."

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Hezbollah members rally in Beirut

Hezbollah members rally in Beirut 370. (photo credit: Reuters)

Lebanese Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah has reportedly begun to remove some of its troops fighting in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad, The Times of London reported on Friday.

The report cited diplomatic and intelligence sources in Beirut who said there had been a reduction in the number of the group's troops in Syria.

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Sources close to Hezbollah "denied that it had acted due to political pressure" from Lebanon or elsewhere claiming the withdrawal was due to "tactical considerations on the ground."

Hezbollah also denied it has withdrawn "significant numbers" of fighters from Syria, according to the Times report.

Meanwhile, a senior diplomatic source told the Times that “there were close to 10,000 fighters in Syria but it’s less than that now, a few thousand.”

Since the summer, Hezbollah has pulled out of Dera'a and concentrated on the key front of Eastern Ghouta on the edge of Damascus, where Assad’s troops have been fighting to break the rebels’ control, according to the report.

Rebel sources and Hezbollah combatants say a new fight may break out in the mountains between Damascus and Homs, the Times said.

In June, Syrian government troops backed by Hezbollah guerrillas seized the western village of Buwayda extinguishing final rebel resistance around the town of Qusair in a significant success for Assad. Hezbollah's role has proved decisive in the Syrian war, but it has also fueled sectarian tensions that have inflamed the region.

Hezbollah and its Iranian backers both follow the Shi'ite strand of Islam, while most of the rebels are Sunni Muslims. Assad himself is from the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Sunni Muslim preachers across the Middle East have at times condemned Iran and its "Satanic" Shi'ite allies.

In what was thought by some to be spillover of sectarian tensions from Syria into neighboring Lebanon, a massive car bomb in July ripped through a Hezbollah Beirut stronghold wounding 53 people. Another car bomb killed 20 people in a Hezbollah neighborhood of south Beirut in August.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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