The Free Syrian Army has reportedly killed 18 Hezbollah fighters in the Western city of Qusayr, activists at the Syrian Revolution General Commission reported on Tuesday.Other reports have the Syrian army making gains in the Qusayr area, however.
The fighters were allegedly killed in a battle between the Syrian rebels and the Hezbollah fighters.
Elite fighters from the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, a staunch ally of the Syrian regime, are leading the fight against rebels in the region of Qusayr in the central province of Homs, a watchdog said on Monday.
“It’s Hezbollah that is leading the battle in Qusayr, with its elite forces,” Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.
On Sunday, the main opposition National Coalition urged Hezbollah to “immediately withdraw its forces from Syrian territory”, adding its involvement in Syria’s conflict “could drag Lebanon and the region into an open-ended conflict with disastrous consequences.”
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri described Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria as a crime against Lebanon Tuesday while rejecting recent calls for Jihad by Salafi sheikhs against the resistance group.Both Hezbollah and its Lebanese opponents seem to be inexorably widening the conflict to Lebanon:
"Hezbollah’s involvement in the fight in Syria is an involvement in defense of the Syrian regime, regardless of the sectarian or factional excuses that the party is putting forth to justify this crime. [This will] drag Lebanon into a fire that Bashar Assad has warned of,” Hariri said in a statement.
"What Hezbollah is doing with regard to this issue is a national and moral duty in the defense of the Lebanese in border villages," Lebanon's official news agency quoted senior Hezbollah leader Sheikh Nabil Qaouq as saying on Monday.
"To those who ask us to allow our brothers in these border villages to be victims of murders, kidnaps, massacres and expulsions, I respond to you: 'Can we leave these Lebanese hostage to this situation?" he added.
"Hezbollah's martyrs are the martyrs of the entire nation because they are defending their Lebanese compatriots," he said at a ceremony marking a week since the death of a Hezbollah fighter killed in Syria.
Meanwhile, Sunni Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir late Monday urged Muslims and the Lebanese people to fight alongside the rebels in Syria and announced the formation of the “Free Resistance Brigades.”
“Jihad in Syria is a must – especially in Al-Qusayr – for all those Lebanese who can,” Assir said during a press conference on Monday.
He also called for the creation of “secret armed groups for self-defense in case [Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan] Nasrallah decides to start killing in Lebanon as he is doing in Syria.”