A fighter loyal to Syria's president Bashar Assad holds his picture as fellow fighters rest by a Syrian national flag after gaining control of the area in Deir al-Adas, a town south of Damascus.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hezbollah’s second in command said over the weekend that the Lebanese Shi’ite movement is in the midst of a military offensive in southern Syria against Sunni Islamist forces that “will yield tremendous results.”
At the behest of Tehran, the Iranian-backed guerilla force is fighting in Syria to assist the regime of President Bashar Assad, who is fighting to remain in power after three years of civil war.
“This operation will yield tremendous results,” Naim Qassem told local media. Qassem holds the title of deputy secretary general, making him the most senior official of Hezbollah after Hassan Nasrallah.
While Qassem did not specify the exact manner in which his organization is aiding the Assad military, he did note that “the press in Israel is devoting a good deal of attention to [what is taking place in southern Syria] because the rebels and the Al-Nusra Front are supposed to fight Hezbollah in that area.”
Meanwhile, some 2,000 families have been uprooted from their homes in areas where the Syrian military and Hezbollah forces have made gains. The pro-Assad-Hezbollah alliance has succeeded in making inroads in swaths of southern Syria – not far from the boundary with the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights - that had until recently been taken over by Sunni rebels.
Iranian news agencies also reported over the weekend that two of its nationals were killed this week in fighting in southern Syria. The casualties have been identified as Ali Sultan Maradi and Abbas Abdel-Lahi, two soldiers with the Revolutionary Guards. They were reportedly killed in gunbattles near the village of Nasaj, not far from the northwest Syrian town of Dara’a. Their bodies remain in the hands of anti-Assad rebels.
Arab media outlets affiliated with Hezbollah are reporting that Iranian commanders are on the ground in Syria. One of them has been identified as Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Al-Quds Force, the international arm of the Revolutionary Guards. It is unclear if Suleimani is acting in a capacity of commander.
Meanwhile, the Kurdish forces who succeeded in liberating the town of Kobani from Islamic State have managed to regain control over at least 163 nearby villages in the last three weeks.
The London-based human rights organization Al-Marsad is reporting that despite the Kurdish recovery, their forces’ advance has been slowed down by ISIS fighters in areas west and southwest of Kobani.