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Hezbollah fighters preparing for Aleppo offensive - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Forces of Syrian President Bashar al Assad are seen in Qusair village May 30, 2013. REUTERS/ Rami Bleible

Forces of Syrian President Bashar al Assad are seen in Qusair village May 30, 2013. REUTERS/ Rami Bleible

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Syrian opposition sources said yesterday that Hezbollah fighters were preparing to launch a major operation against the city of Aleppo in northern Syria.

Louay Miqdad, media and political coordinator of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) told Asharq Al-Awsat that more than 4,000 Hezbollah fighters had arrived in the outskirts of Aleppo and were “gathering at the military engineering academy in preparation to enter Aleppo.” More than half of the strategically important city is reported to be under the control of the opposition.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Hezbollah was amassing thousands of its fighters around Aleppo, citing senior commanders from Hezbollah and the FSA on the presence of around 2,000 Hezbollah fighters in the city’s suburbs.

Miqdad said: “Hezbollah’s escalation of its operations to include Aleppo proves that the Syrian regime forces are exhausted and need support.”

He likened “the regime’s recruitment of Hezbollah fighters to former Libyan leader Gaddafi’s recruitment of African mercenaries,” adding that Hezbollah’s involvement will not change the balance of power in Aleppo, because the opposition forces are well entrenched in their positions.

Reports of Hezbollah’s arrival in Aleppo have led many residents to leave the surrounding area. FSA fighters said they had no choice but to “booby-trap buildings in the city in order to stop regime and Hezbollah forces entering them.”

In other developments, leader of the Hezbollah bloc in the Lebanese parliament, MP Mohammad Ra’ad, said: “Whoever is wagering on stabbing the resistance in the back, or on bringing the Syrian government down ahead of the Geneva meeting, will lose that bet and be deeply disappointed.”

Speaking at a Hezbollah event in south Lebanon, he added that “the real reason for targeting Syria, destroying it, and weakening it, is because it refused to sell out the resistance despite the tempting offers it received.”

Meanwhile, Fouad Siniora, former Lebanese prime minister and leader of the Future movement, reiterated his opposition to Lebanese participation in the fighting in Syria. He said: “We will not be silent and we reject having our present and future destroyed, turning our country to an exporter of militias and death groups, and turning our country into a failed state. We say it clearly; No to Hezbollah, or any Lebanese group’s participation in the fighting between the people and the government in Syria.”

The Syrian opposition accused Assad regime forces of disrupting water supplies to the Hama governorate, after taking control of the purification stations in Homs.

The FSA has also confirmed that it is continuing its support operation for Al-Qusayr and has taken control of two checkpoints and destroyed a tank and a number of armored vehicles, in addition to killing a number of regular army soldiers.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government has released estimates of the cost the more than two-year-long crisis has had on its economy. A report placed the cost at approximately as USD 100 billion.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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