Syrian opposition forces bomb Hezbullah compounds in Syria and Lebanonbombed two Hezbullah compounds, one in Syria and one in the Lebanese town of Hermel. If the story is confirmed, it could indicate an expansion of Syria's civil war to neighboring countries.
Sources in the Free Syrian Army, the main armed group fighting to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad, are announcing that its soldiers have bombed two Hezbollah compounds, one in Syria and another in the Lebanese town of Hermel. If confirmed the development may mark a critical turn in Syria’s two-year war, bearing out fears that the increasingly sectarian conflict would spill over across Syria’s borders.
Hezbollah, of course, is not the only foreign actor active in Syria. The war is a regional proxy conflict, with Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons on one side, Qatar and Saudi Arabia leading the Arab states in supporting the anti-Assad camp on another. Speculation that Saudi intelligence is operating in Lebanon and Syria is rife. This week a Lebanese newspaper reported that the assassination in Syria of Iranian general Hassan Shateri – believed to be the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon – was the work of Saudi intelligence agents.
Many of the battles reportedly involving Hezbollah forces have been waged near Homs, not far from the Lebanese-Syrian border. The Syrian rebels say Hezbollah is fighting to take control several villages on the Syrian side. Assad’s camp insists the villagers are Shiites with Lebanese citizenship who for some unclear reason have ended up in Syria, and that Hezbollah is gallantly protecting from the wrath of Salafist rebels, including those of Jabhat al-Nusra.
But irrespective of the battles’ final outcome, it seems Hezbollah is making military preparations for the “day after” Assad’s fall. The group apparently no longer has faith in the Syrian army’s ability to withstand the rebels or to maintain Hezbollah’s weapons caches in Syria. Hezbollah forces are now working to transfer as much military material as possible into Lebanese safe-havens, and to establish zones of control to facilitate freedom of movement from Syria into Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Hezbollah is sending its own fighters into Syria to accomplish those tasks, and is also setting up militias among Syrian Shiites – some of which may have already received Hezbollah training in Iraq.
At the moment it doesn’t seem Hezbollah will change its strategy any time soon, though it may be forced to adjust should battles against the Syrian opposition escalate.
The overall conflict itself, however, seems to be dragging on. Prof. Kais Firro, an expert on Lebanon and Syria at the University of Haifa, explained why this week: “the Syrian army is too weak to destroy the rebels, and they’re too weak to topple it.”
From Israel's perspective, one of the key points here is that if Hezbullah is fighting the Free Syrian Army, it will be in no position to retaliate when and if Israel hits Iran.