The US State Department called on Hezbollah on Wednesday to withdraw its
fighters from Syria immediately, saying their involvement on the side of
President Bashar Assad signaled a dangerous broadening of the war.
Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemned the declaration last weekend by the
Lebanese Shi’ite organization’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, confirming that his
combatants were in Syria and vowing they would stay in the war “to the end of
“This is an unacceptable and extremely dangerous escalation.
We demand that Hezbollah withdraw its fighters from Syria immediately,” Psaki
said at a daily news briefing.
Violence from the Syrian conflict has
increasingly spilled over into Lebanon, particularly in the northern city of
Hezbollah’s participation in a battle at the town of Qusair on
the Syrian-Lebanese border risks dragging Lebanon into a conflict that has
increasingly become overshadowed by Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian
Nasrallah said on Saturday that Syria and Lebanon were facing a
threat from radical Sunni Islamists, which he argued was a plot devised by the
United States and its allies to serve Israel’s interests.
Psaki also condemned the killing of
three Lebanese soldiers at an army checkpoint in the eastern Bekaa Valley on
The gunmen fled toward the Syrian border, but it was not clear
who carried out the attack.
“We remain deeply concerned about reports of
multiple crossborder security incidents in recent days,” she said.
what the United States would do if Hezbollah did not withdraw, Psaki said
Washington was pursuing diplomatic solutions but was also “continuing to
increase and escalate our aid and support for the [Syrian]
She said Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and acting
Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones would travel to Geneva
in the coming week to meet Russian and UN diplomats and work on bringing
together an international conference on Syria.
President Barack Obama has
repeatedly shied away from US involvement in the conflict, which has claimed
France said on Wednesday its intelligence services believed
3,000-4,000 Hezbollah guerrillas were fighting alongside Assad’s army in Syria’s
“As far as Hezbollah militants present in the battlefield, the
figures range from 3,000 to 10,000. Our estimates are between 3,000 and 4,000,”
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told lawmakers.
United Nations human
rights chief Navi Pillay said on Wednesday a dramatic increase in the role of
Iran-backed Hezbollah gunmen backing Syrian government forces was inflaming
regional tensions, without giving numbers.
Fabius pointed the finger at
Iran for pushing Hezbollah into the Syrian conflict.
“When you have
fighters that are really well armed that are prepared to die and they are
several thousand, that makes a difference,” he said.
Fabius has dismissed
any suggestion that Iran could be involved in resolving the Syrian crisis,
because of its backing of the Assad regime.
“There has been a change on
the ground. The involvement of Hezbollah and the fact the Russians have
delivered weapons has changed things,” he said. “Even if many elements that are
fighting are Syrian, they are being guided by Iranian officials.”
Lebanese daily Al- Akhbar reported on Wednesday that Hezbollah’s role in Syria
is limited and that Hezbollah understands its limits, refraining from
overextending itself into Syria. Instead, the group will concentrate on
defending its supply lines, according to the report.
The Syrian Arab News
Agency reported on Wednesday that Assad would give an interview on Hezbollah’s
Al-Manar TV at 9 p.m. on Thursday.
Assad’s media office stated on
Facebook that it would be simultaneously broadcast on Syrian TV
The interview reflects the tightening relations between Syria,
Hezbollah and Iran. •