SHAFAQNA – Hezbollah remains at the “heart of the battle” for Syria’s border Qalamoun region, the secretary general of the Lebanese resistance group, Seyed Hassan Nasrallah, said Saturday.
Hezbollah, along with the Syrian army and popular mobilization units, have achieved several victories since the offensive launched in Qalamoun nearly 2 weeks ago, including the seizure of illegal crossings used to smuggle explosives between Lebanon and Syria.
Militants have also been ousted from several strategic locations, allowing Hezbollah and its allies to link Lebanon’s eastern towns to adjacent Syrian villages, Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
He also noted that the seizure of militants’ posts in Qalamoun has helped secure the Damascus-Homs highway and Lebanese border towns, recalling the hundreds of rockets fired by Syrian rebels into Lebanon over the past several years.
“I am not talking about full security, because militants are still present on the outskirts of Arsal,” he added.
“As long as they are on Arsal’s outskirts and the remaining part of Qalamoun, then I can’t talk about complete security.”
The fighting began on March 4 when Nusra Front militants launched surprise attacks on Hezbollah and Syrian army posts along the rugged Qalamoun region, which straddles Lebanon’s eastern border.
Hezbollah and the Syrian army responded with a swift campaign to drive the militants north, beginning from the outskirts of the Lebanese border enclave of Tfail.
The allies have since been capturing hill after hill in fierce daily fighting that has left dozens of Nusra-led militants dead. The single most important victory for Hezbollah was the seizure Wednesday of Tallit al-Moussa, the highest point in Qalamoun which allows the group and its allies to monitor movements on both sides of the border.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah has lost 13 fighters since the beginning of the offensive, while the Syrian Army and Syrian popular mobilization units lost a combined seven, the Daily Star reported.
“Lives are not cheap,” he added, praising their sacrifices.
Nasrallah also said residents of Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, especially citizens of Baalbek and Hermel, will not tolerate the presence of militants on the outskirts of their towns and villages.
If the state does not assume its responsibility toward these towns, Nasrallah added, Bekaa residents will take it upon themselves to ensure protection.
“It is our right and the rights of the citizens of Baalbek and Hermel to look ahead to a day where there is no longer a single militant on Lebanon’s outskirts.”
Nasrallah also dismissed rumors that Hezbollah was trying to get the Lebanese Army involved in the Qalamoun battle.
The resistance appreciates and respects the Lebanese Army and its leadership, and is keen on keeping it out of any conflict in Qalamoun, he said.