Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – After previously threatening to transfer the conflict from Syria to the southern suburbs of Beirut, Free Syrian Army [FSA] spokesman Fahd al-Masri, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that 60 Hezbollah elements had been killed in the town of al-Qaseer on Thursday. He revealed that Hezbollah had requested a truce with the Syrian rebels – lasting for several hours – to retrieve their slain comrades from Syrian territory; however this request was rejected by the FSA leadership.
Recalling details of the operation that led to the deaths of 60 Hezbollah cadres, the FSA spokesman revealed that “a group of Hezbollah fighters, along with al-Assad gangs, attempted to storm and were able to gain control of the town of al-Qaseer in the Homs governorate for a number of hours [on Thursday]. A few hours later, the FSA was able, once more, to return…after the al-Assad gangs left the Hezbollah fighters alone in two primary locations. The first location was in the Christian district of Rabla, close to the railway, whilst the other was west of the town of al-Qaseer, close to the Lebanese area of Hermel. Our forces were able to regain complete control on the town of al-Qaseer, retaking control of all checkpoints and causing heavy losses in the ranks of the Hezbollah opposition. The battle resulted in the destruction of one bus and the deaths of everybody inside, namely 31 Hezbollah cadres with their military equipment. 29 other Hezbollah cadres, deployed across several military and security checkpoints, were also killed. Following this, all other Hezbollah cadres fled towards Lebanese territory.”
Al-Masri, spokesman for the FSA Joint Command, also confirmed that the FSA leadership had refused to release 16 Hezbollah fighters that had been captured by the Syrian rebels in Homs approximately 10 days ago. He said that “the fate of the prisoners and bodies of the deceased will be determined on the basis of international agreements regarding war and under the auspices of the Red Crescent organization and with the knowledge of the United Nations and Arab League, after Hezbollah pledges to immediately withdraw all its fighters from Syrian territory and stop its violations of Syrian sovereignty, as well as its killing and suppression of the Syrian revolution.”
In a previous statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, the FSA Joint Command spokesman Fahd al-Masri had threatened that the FSA would seek to transfer the conflict to Lebanon. Commenting on this, senior FSA officials informed Asharq Al-Awsat that al-Masri’s statements had been “unofficial”, adding that “what we are seeking, as a Free Army, is to liberate our country from the al-Assad regime, not transfer the battle elsewhere.”
For his part, Louay Al Miqdad, official spokesman for the FSA Supreme Military Council, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “Hezbollah is currently undertaking attempts to incite the Shiites inside Syria to take up arms to defend the al-Assad regime.”
He added “Hezbollah members took part in battles in the Homs districts of Sayida Zeinab and Qabboun, whilst Hezbollah officers are running operations in the provinces.”
Miqdad stressed that dozens of Hezbollah cadres are being killed in Syria on a daily basis by the FSA, adding that Hezbollah had moved from overseeing operations in Syria to actively taking part in them. He said “they are trying to transfer the ball of fire from Syria to Lebanon; however we confirm that we do not accept this. Lebanese security and stability is of the highest priority for us, on the basis that the Lebanese people’s suffering at the hands of the al-Assad family is equivalent to that of the Syrian people’s suffering.”
For his part, Lebanese Change and Reform bloc MP Fadi al-Awar, categorically denied reports of Hezbollah cadres being killed in Syria. The senior member of the Change and Reform bloc – which has strong ties to Hezbollah – acknowledged that a number of Hezbollah cadres had been killed by Syrian rebels, but stressed that this had taken place on Lebanese territory, citing “geographic overlap between Lebanese and Syrian villages, particularly in Hermel.”
Al-Awar, speaking to Lebanon’s Elnashra news website, stressed that Syrian and Lebanese villages overlap from al-Aboudiya to Hermel and Arsal.