Hezbollah Under Pressure After Facing Losses in Syria, Opposition in Lebanon
Hezbollah has suffered severe and serious losses in the battle for an important mountainous region that serves as a natural buffer between war-torn Syria and Lebanon, Lebanese media reported on Wednesday.
At the same time, former Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri launched an unrelenting, critical campaign against the Shia Islamist terror organization.
Recent reports indicated that Hezbollah had been preparing for a bloody ground war against Al-Nusra Front and other militant Sunni organizations for control of the strategically important Qalamoun mountains, just northeast of Lebanon, in Syria. Hezbollah trained and deployed 4,000 soldiers to the region to fight alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian military advisers.
Hezbollah had planned to start the battle for Qalamoun at a time of its own choosing, but the group was caught off guard by violent attacks launched by Sunni rebel groups, led by the Nusra Front, which killed dozens of Hezbollah fighters.
According to the latest reports from officials in Syria, in the last few days Hezbollah lost four senior commanders in the field, among them Hezbollah’s Qalamoun regional commander, Ali Khalil Alian, whose death was first reported by Arab media on Tuesday.
Today, three other senior commanders were added to the list of Hezbollah’s losses, according to reports cited by Israel’s NRG news. They were: Tawfiq Al-Najjar, Hassan Adnan Al-Asi and Hussein Luweis.
Media outlets affiliated with Hezbollah denied that the Shia organization was taken by surprise, claiming Hezbollah was able to successfully turn the tables on the Nusra Front and its allies.
In addition to the hardships on the battlefield, criticism of Hezbollah has been mounting inside Lebanon, mainly due to a persistent campaign launched by Hariri, one of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s staunchest opponents in the country.
Hariri has repeatedly claimed that Hezbollah’s actions endanger Lebanese security and threaten the country’s borders.
Hezbollah has also been confronting a relatively new phenomenon: strident criticism from its Shia base. Many Shia families see the war in Syria as a war that is not theirs and have criticized Hezbollah for sending their sons into battle.
When a convoy to Lebanon brought back 20 coffins carrying Hezbollah fighters who fell in Syria, it roused anger among the families of the dead. Violent confrontations erupted between the families and Hezbollah, according to NRG.
The Lebanese Shia community’s animosity toward Hezbollah goes beyond the group’s actions in Syria. Hezbollah has also drawn criticism for its involvement in battles waged by Shia militants in Iraq and Yemen, as well as its political confrontations with Saudi Arabia and other regional Sunni powers, which were triggered by the group’s shared interests with Iran.