Hezbollah fighters, rebels clashing daily in Syria, residents


Clashes near the Lebanese border between Hezbollah-backed fighters and Free Syrian army fighters continue on nearly daily basis local residents report.

Syrian activists have long accused Hezbollah, a militant Shiite group backed by Iran and Syria of fighting alongside the forces of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to crush the 19-month uprising .

The fighting is taking place in Syrian villages inhabited mainly by Lebanese, in an area where the common border is not well-defined and where many villages actually straddle the frontier.

Syria has so far refused to demarcate its border with Lebanon

“Our villages are being attacked by rebels who want to enter, and we defend ourselves,” a resident of Zeita, whose village has seen frequent clashes, told AFP on Wednesday, requesting anonymity.

Clashes are taking place “in some 20 Shiite villages in the central Syrian province of Homs, which are inhabited by some 30,000 people,” he added.

Assad is a Alawite, a sect that is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

“More than 5,000 armed men are protecting our villages, and most of them are close to Hezbollah,” the resident said. “Some 16 fighters have been killed since the start of the conflict.”

Rebels also reported frequent clashes.

“Hezbollah transports weapons and ammunition across the border in ambulances, day and night,” said Fahd al-Masri, a spokesperson for the rebel Free Syrian Army’s joint command.

“They take the international road, without stopping at the border post.”

Asked by reporters in Beirut on Wednesday about Hezbollah’s role in Syria, international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said: “Nobody has discussed this with me, not today, not previously.”

Last Thursday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah denied his party is fighting alongsisde the forces of the Syrian regime and said that the party has not taken any decision so far to enter the fighting in Syria but that some Lebanese living there had taken up arms to support the regime “in order to defend themselves.”

“The party has nothing to do with their decision, but I cannot tell them not to go fight,” said Nasrallah.

Now Lebanon/ AFP