Hezbollah strengthening hold on southern Lebanon

Terror group increases displays of force against peacekeeping patrol in south Lebanon, hints at readiness to up aid to Assad.

Hezbollah supporters in Beirut 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hezbollah supporters in Beirut 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
UNIFIL patrols in southern Lebanon increasingly face confrontations with Hezbollah as the number of Lebanese Army soldiers has dwindled in the border region, the Beirut-based Daily Star reported on Wednesday.
The peacekeepers expressed frustration with Hezbollah attempts to block their way into certain areas.
The dearth of Lebanese troops on the border – they now number about 3,000 – means that UNIFIL is increasingly facing Hezbollah alone, and is hesitant to do anything that might trigger a violent response from the group.
UN Security Council Resolution 1701 calls for the Lebanese Army to control the south with the aid of UNIFIL.
“The Lebanese Army is nowhere near that right now.
In fact, they are further away from that than before,” a Lebanese Army officer said.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech on Tuesday that his organization would not allow Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime to fall.
“Syria has real friends, in the region and the world, who will not let it fall in the hands of America, Israel, and takfiri groups,” he said, as quoted by the Hezbollah website Al-Manar. Takfiri refers to the belief of some Sunni jihadists that it is possible to declare other Muslims infidels, thus justifying their execution for apostasy.
Nasrallah said that he preferred a political solution to the conflict in Syria, but that the Lebanese state was incapable of protecting its citizens in the border region. He said he did not want the conflict to spread to Lebanon.
He denied the numerous reports in the media about large numbers of Hezbollah casualties in Syria.
“Lebanon is a small country.
Who could hide these numbers of martyrs? Throughout our path, we have not hidden the bodies of our martyrs or buried them gradually,” Nasrallah said.
“We bury our martyrs publicly.
We are not ashamed of our martyrs.”
The Syrian rebels responded to Nasrallah’s speech on Wednesday saying the movement was threatening the entire region, according to a report on Al Jazeera.
“The Syrians and the Lebanese hoped... that the Hezbollah leadership would stop their attacks on Homs and Damascus and take into account the gravity of the situation in the region,” stated the Syrian National Coalition.
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the head of the Sunni-dominated Future Movement, said on Wednesday that Nasrallah was putting Lebanon at risk because of its involvement in Syria.
“The state, along with Lebanese groups, is hostage to Hezbollah and that is all for [the sake of] Bashar Assad and at the request of the fatwa he brought back with him from Tehran,” Hariri said.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.