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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Expanding War In Syria


Russia has refused to scrap plans to provide Syrian President Bashar Assad with high-powered missiles - claiming it will help deter 'hotheads' intent on intervention in the two-year-old conflict.

The announcement comes as Russia accused the European Union allowed of 'throwing fuel on the fire' by letting its own arms embargo on Syria expire.

Israel and France had urged Moscow to refrain from sending high-precision S-300 missile systems to President Bashar al-Assad's government, which is battling a Western and Gulf Arab-backed insurgency.
Then there is the growing participation of Hezbollah:
The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah warned Saturday that the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime would give rise to extremists and plunge the Middle East into a "dark period," and vowed his Shiite militant group will not stand idly by while its chief ally in Damascus is under attack. 
In a televised address, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said Hezbollah members are fighting in Syria against Islamic extremists who pose a danger to Lebanon, and pledged that his group will not allow Syrian militants to control areas that border Lebanon. 
Nasrallah's comments marked the first time he has publically confirmed his men were fighting in Syria, and were his first remarks since Hezbollah fighters have become deeply involved in the battle for the strategic Syrian town of Qusair near the Lebanese frontier. 
Hezbollah has come under harsh criticism at home and abroad for sending fighters to Syria to fight along Assad's forces. In his speech, Nasrallah sought to defend the group's deepening involvement, and frame its fight next door as part of a broader battle against Israel. 
He also portrayed the fight in Syria as an "existential war" for anti-Israel groups including Hezbollah. 
"Syria is the back of the resistance, and the resistance cannot stand, arms folded while its back is broken," Nasrallah told thousands of supporters from a secret location though a video link. 
"If Syria falls into the hand of America, Israel and takfiris, the resistance (Hezbollah) will be besieged and Israel will enter Lebanon and impose its will," Nasrallah said. Takfiri Islamists refers to an ideology that urges Sunni Muslims to kill anyone they consider an infidel.
The involvement of Hezbollah risks the spread of the war to Lebanon--perhaps it is already there:

Two rockets hit Shiyah District (pictured) last night. Four people were wounded in this Hizbollah stronghold in southern of Beirut. Two more rockets were also fired in the Bekaa Valley, another stronghold of the Shia movement, but caused no casualties. The Lebanese army is also looking for an unexploded rocket fired from a location between Baabda and Aitat.


The attacks are said to be related to the statement made just 12 hours earlier by Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, that his movement would continue to support militarily Syrian President Assad.


This, according to Syrian opposition sources, has cost the Party of God dozens of deaths. However, Syrian sources say that Hizbullah military support has helped President Bashar Assad's forces gain the upper hand in the battle for Qusayr, which the Syrian army and Hizbollah are said to control 80 per cent.


The Free Syrian Army, which includes most of Syria's armed opposition, has denied involvement in the rockets against Hizbollah.


What is happening gives further arguments to those who fear for the future of Lebanon. "What is certain is that the [rocket attacks] were an attempt to create splits among the Lebanese ranks and drag the [Syrian] strife to Lebanon," Lebanon's Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn said.


There are plenty of signs that it is working. Clashes in Tripoli are set to continue today for an eighth day between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, this despite the Army's intervention.


Yesterday there was another victim, bringing to 24 the number of those who lost their lives in the clashes, along with 167 injured.


A clash between an official in the Hizbollah-linked Resistance Brigades and Salafists left one man wounded in the southern city of Sidon over the weekend.


Finally, there is the concern that an attempt is underway to involve Israel, after state-run National News Agency reported a rocket launched against the Jewish state. The attack has not been confirmed either by the Lebanese army, nor the Israeli one, perhaps to avoid increasing tensions.

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