Hezbollah members in Lebanon take part in a funeral procession for their comrade Akram Sadek Hourani, who was killed in the recent battles in Syria's Qalamoun region..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An unprecedented number of Hezbollah fighters have been killed during fighting in the Qalamoun border region along the Lebanese-Syrian border, but the organization has sought to cover up its losses, the Saudi newspaper Okaz reported on Saturday.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Saturday the group’s military operation against armed insurgents in the Syrian mountainous region was a success and that only 13 of the group’s fighters were killed in the fighting.
“The armed insurgents were defeated and pushed out of the areas of engagement – they were defeated in all those areas and left,” said Nasrallah in a televised statement on the group’s Al-Manar channel.
Hezbollah and the Syrian Army made big advances against insurgents in mountains north of Damascus, shoring up President Bashar Assad’s grip on the border zone.
“The accomplishments of the resistance and the Syrian Army in Qalamoun serve Lebanon’s interests first and foremost,” Nabil Qaouk, the deputy head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council, said in a speech on Sunday, the Lebanese Daily Star reported.
“Through the [battles] we have distanced the threat from Lebanese villages more than any other time in the past,” he said, adding, “The biggest loser, however, is Israel, which was betting on ISIS and the Nusra Front to drain Lebanon, the resistance, the people and the army.”
Qaouk’s comments are part of an ongoing Hezbollah effort to present itself as a Lebanese national defense organization as opposed to a Shi’ite sectarian organization allied with Iran.
The gains in the crucial Qalamoun region close to Lebanon against groups including the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front follow significant defeats for Assad elsewhere, notably in Syria’s northwest near the Turkish border.
Nasrallah also denied recent rumors that he had been hospitalized in a Beirut hospital after suffering a stroke. He said that the rumors were part of a campaign of psychological warfare waged by Syrian rebel groups. He went on to note that rather than drinking medicine during his speeches, he sips lemonade.
Referring to the Palestinian Nakba Day, or day of “catastrophe,” which is generally marked annually on May 15, Nasrallah said, according to Al-Manar, that the new jihadist threat is the new nakba for the Islamic nation.
The US is plotting to fragment and destroy the Islamic nation through the use of jihadist groups, he claimed.
Separately, in what appears to be a public relations campaign, Hezbollah gave a press tour of the Qalamoun region, which included reporters from The New York Times and Reuters.
“There is a difference between the Islam that is like a flower for the honeybees and the dark Islam that is harming people and religions,” said one Hezbollah fighter, according to the Times, as he sought to portray Hezbollah’s version of Islam in a beneficial light compared to that of the Sunni rebels.
“We who defeated the Israelis will also defeat the terrorists,” he said, adding, “and we will take Jerusalem.”Jerusalem Post staff and Reuters contributed to this report.
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