Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Syrian rebels have intensified their attacks on Hezbollah fighters in the strategically important Qalamoun border region between Syria and Lebanon, adopting “hit and run” tactics against the Lebanese Shi’a militia.
“The rebels are focusing on targeting checkpoints manned by Hezbollah members to force them to withdraw,” Syrian opposition activist Amer Al-Qalamouni told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“The current situation does not allow the rebels to hold territory or get involved in large-scale battles,” he added.
Syria’s armed opposition is increasingly focusing on ambushing Hezbollah fighters deployed in Syria’s Qalamoun mountain region. The strategically important border region has been recaptured by Syrian government troops, assisted by Hezbollah fighters, cutting off vital Syrian rebel supply lines from Lebanon.
Seven Hezbollah fighters were reported killed in the Qalamoun town of Assal Al-Ward last week, amid reports that the Lebanese militia is seeking to repatriate the bodies of its fighters killed in the clashes.
The director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul Rahman, said that operations in Qalamoun targeting Hezbollah fighters and Syrian government troops had recently increased, but added that there has been no confirmation regarding Hezbollah entering into talks with Syrian rebels in order to secure the return of bodies of fighters killed in recent clashes.
While Syrian troops, backed by Hezbollah, have secured virtual control of the Syrian–Lebanese border region, cutting off rebel supply lines, Syrian rebels remain present throughout the mountainous Qalamoun region close to Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley.
In comments to Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, a Hezbollah official said: “We need more fighters to launch an extensive attack against the rebels. The opposition’s numbers [in Qalamoun] range between 5,000 and 10,000 fighters.”
The latest developments in Qalamoun come as Hezbollah carried out a military show of force in Beqaa, parading soldiers and arms—including rocket launchers—throughout the towns of Labweh, Al-Ain and other towns bordering Syria.
The military parade was met with criticism by some Lebanese politicians, who said the move was provocative. Future Movement MP Assem Araji told Asharq Al-Awsat: “This was an attempt by Hezbollah to demonstrate its strong presence in the region, and showing that it is capable of repelling any attack.”