25 June 2016 – Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that the Lebanese organization will send more fighters to battlefronts near Syria’s largest city Aleppo, where rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra have advanced against pro-Assad forces. Nasrallah declared in a televised speech: We are facing a new wave, or a new stage, of projects of war against Syria which are being waged in northern Syria, particularly in the Aleppo region. The defense of Aleppo is the defense of the rest of Syria. It is the defense of Damascus. It is also the defense of Lebanon, and of Iraq.
Hezbollah, vital in the defense of the Assad regime, had redeployed its fighters in March from the Aleppo battlefronts to southern Syria.
However, rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra have overrun Iranian-led positions south of Aleppo over the past three months and pro-Assad forces have struggled to claim territory to the north, closing off the main route to opposition-held areas of the city.
Nasrallah implicitly referred to the setbacks: “The ongoing battle in Aleppo is set to be a new chance for the American-Saudi-Takfiri project to reach a certain achievement and to [diminish] the victories made by the Syrian army and allies.”
A Troubled Redeployment
Hezbollah’s redeployment has not gone smoothly. Pro-opposition accounts said dozens of fighters were killed last week, both by rebel attacks and by an errant strike by Russian warplanes.
In a rare admission of casualties, Nasrallah said 26 Hezbollah troops had been killed since the beginning of June.
The Hezbollah leader portrayed the losses as a necessary sacrifice against foreign powers, converting the unsuccessful pro-Assad offensives north of Aleppo city into an invasion by the regime’s opponents: “After they failed to reach Damascus from Lebanon, Jordan and the eastern front, Saudi Arabia and Turkey dispatched thousands of militants in a bid to launch an offensive from the northern front.”
He criticized a February 27 cessation of hostilities, brokered by the US and Russia, saying that it allowed rebels to regroup against the regime-Iranian-Hezbollah offensives — enabled by Russian airstrikes — that had gained territory since the autumn:”The terrorist axis was about to collapse before the US and the UN Security Council imposed on Russia the ceasefire which was utilized by the terrorists to renew their attacks.”
Nasrallah said any claims of large Hezbollah losses were “rumors and lies in the context of psychological warfare”. He then proclaimed that 617 “terrorists” had been killed and 800 wounded, with 90 tanks and vehicles destroyed.
Nasrallah was speaking for the 40th-day ceremony of the death of Hezbollah’s commander in Syria, Mustafa Badreddine.
Badreddine was killed in an attack near Damascus in mid-May. It is still unclear who carried out the assassination. www.mesop.de