Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Hezbollah is under increasing pressure over its support for the under-fire Bashar Al-Assad regime, with many reports claiming that Hezbollah fighters are physically taking part in suppressing the two-year-old uprising that has engulfed the entire country.
In an open letter, Syrian opposition figure, Moaz Alkhatib, called on Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah to withdraw his fighters to avoid the conflict degenerating into a sectarian war.
“Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria has complicated matters deeply, and I expected you, given your political and social stature, to play a more positive role” Khatib said in a statement posted on Facebook.
Khatib, a moderate Sunni who has widespread support in Syria, made his appeal just two days after radical Sunni sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir called for Lebanese fighters to join insurgents seeking to oust Assad.
But the main rebel group, the Free Syrian Army, rejected the call to jihad in a statement Wednesday.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, a close ally of the Assad regime, has denied accusations that it has sent its elite troops into Syria to support regime forces.
It says Syrian rebels have targeted Shi’ite areas of Syria inhabited by Lebanese adding that the Shi’ites in Syria have a right to self-defense.
But the accusations against Hezbollah have multiplied as fighting escalated this week in the Qusayr area near the Lebanon border.
In a related development, the Al Nusra Front issued an ultimatum to Lebanese president Michel Suleiman yesterday to withdraw Hezbollah forces from Syria or Beirut will be attacked.
In a statement carried on a number of Jihadist websites, the Al-Qaeda affiliated group said, “He must take immediate measures to prevent Hezbollah interference in the internal affairs of Syria, or Beirut will be set on fire within the next 24 hours”
Yesterday, the United Nations political chief said that rapid action was needed to address the Syrian crisis.
“As the situation inside Syria continues to deteriorate, it is even more vital that everyone collectively work towards preserving regional stability,” Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs said in a briefing to the UN Security Council.
“Now is the time for the international community to work in a concerted manner and without delay,” Mr. Feltman said, recalling that Arab leaders at the recent Doha Summit had reconfirmed their intention to send a ministerial delegation to Washington, D.C. on April 28 to discuss the peace process.
According to UN figures the conflict in Syria has already left more than 70,000 people dead since it began in March 2011.