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Rebels: Hizbullah training thousands in Bekaa Valley to turn tide in Syrian war

Special to WorldTribune.com

NICOSIA — Sunni rebels have asserted that the Iranian-sponsored
Hizbullah was organizing another major military expedition in Syria.

The Free Syrian Army said Hizbullah was training thousands of fighters
to quell the two-year revolt against the regime of President Bashar Assad.
FSA said Hizbullah intends to deploy another 5,000 troops to the central
Syrian city of Homs in March 2013.

Smoke rises from Juret al-Shayah in Homs, Syria.  /Reuters/File

Smoke rises from Juret al-Shayah in Homs, Syria. /Reuters/File

“They are preparing to send between 4,000-5,000 fighters to Syria via
Homs over the next few days,” FSA said.

In a statement on March 5, FSA reported Hizbullah training of new forces for the Syrian campaign. The statement said Hizbullah training was taking place in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley near Mashghara.

“They are establishing reconnaissance positions and deployment centers, some of them near the eight Syrian border towns occupied by the party, with the aim of providing protection and controlling the international highway connecting Damascus, Homs and the [Syrian] coast,” FSA said.

FSA as well as other rebel groups have reported a massive escalation in
the Hizbullah presence in Syria over the last three months. The rebels said
more than 10,000 Hizbullah personnel were deployed in Syria, including
participating in Syrian Army and Shabiha militia operations.

“Over the past three months, Hizbullah conducted ethnic cleansing
operations in several border towns, especially Jousiyeh, while dozens of
houses were torched and thousands of residents
were expelled,” FSA said.

Hizbullah has acknowledged that its fighters were operating with the
Assad regime. Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah said the focus of
operations were in Shi’ite villages in Syria near the Lebanese border.

FSA also said Hizbullah was firing Iranian- and Syrian-supplied
artillery toward rebel strongholds in Syria. Hizbullah targets were said to
have included villages around Qusair, a leading supply station of the
Shi’ite force.

The statement came amid a series of successes by Assad’s military and
security forces in capturing rebel-held positions. The rebels acknowledged
that they did not have sufficient weapons and munitions to hold on to
strategic facilities, including major army and air force bases.

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