Hezbollah Working to Conceal Significant Losses in Syrian Civil War
Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah has devised a strategy to conceal its losses in the ongoing Syrian civil war as it fights alongside its ally Bashar al-Assad, Lebanon’s NOW News reported.
Officially, no numbers have been released of Hezbollah’s casualties in fighting rebel and Sunni Islamist forces attempting to unseat the Syrian president. Despite becoming progressively more open about the nature and extent of its involvement in Syria’s civil war, the number of its casualties are still a closely-guarded Hezbollah secret.
According to the report, in the 2013 battle of Al-Qusayr – in which Assad’s forces and Hezbollah attempted to capture villages in the Golan Heights near the border with Israel — Hezbollah lost 130 fighters, the same number that Hezbollah claims were killed in action against Israel during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Its extended campaign in Qalamoun in southern Syria incurred Hezbollah a further 400 casualties. The battle in that region is still raging a full two years after it was launched. Some sources told NOW that Hezbollah has lost about 1,000 fighters in Qalamoun.
NOW’s Rabih Haddad said there were two reasons behind Hezbollah’s silence: “The party either does not want to reveal the magnitude of the losses it has incurred in defending the Syrian regime, or it does not want to reveal the enormity of the figures compared to the number of fighters killed in the open conflict with the Israeli enemy,” adding that “perhaps both explanations are true.”
Haddad posited that Hezbollah may have thought the battle against rebel forces would be a short one, and that its number of losses would remain low.
“After the number of losses exceeded expectations, bigger justifications had to be found for the conflict,” he said.
Because of its heavy losses, the group has also expanded on the supposed enemies it is facing, from apostates to Zionists to other states attempting to bring Hezbollah down.
This bigger web of enemies, says Haddad, was necessary to justify Hezbollah’s continued involvement to its Shia base in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s losses in Syria can become a huge issue when comparisons are drawn to its losses in conflicts with Israel.
“In pro-Hezbollah circles, words are being whispered about great losses, and it is not just numbers and figures that are being discussed,” says Haddad. He said the party’s image as the unconquerable resistance, “which it has spent 30 years promoting, has been called into question.”
Hezbollah’s losses in Syria may exceed the total number of losses it has incurred against Israel since the early 1980’s, said Haddad quoting sources.
Moreover, as the fighting is dragging on in Syria, questions are being raised among pro-Hezbollah elements regarding the very reason for Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria. It “could perhaps be succinctly expressed as a two-fold question: ‘Whatever made us go there? What is our issue with them?”
Hezbollah has also begun downplaying funerals for its fighters, choosing to bury them in Syria rather than in Lebanon.
A further measure it has taken to conceal the deaths is to enlist the help of mukhtars – a head of a town or village – in Lebanon’s majority Shia areas. Hezbollah has the village leaders forge death certificates for the fighters, writing that the cause of death was the result of an accident.
“In some of the documents, it was a car accident, in others a different kind of accident,” said Haddad.