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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hezbollah's body count in Syria is rising

From Ya Libnan:
The funeral of four more Hezbollah members that were killed in Syria took place in Lebanon’s
Nabatiyeh on Tuesday, Now reported , adding that the bodies of more fighters were being prepared for burial.

The burial ceremony was accompanied by Resistance chants and heavy gunfire, NOW added.

NOW also reported that a large number of corpses of Hezbollah militants who died in combat in Syria are at the Sheikh Ragheb Harb Hospital Nabatiyeh’s Jeb Sheet and that the Shiite group is burying them in installments in order not to draw attention to the growing phenomenon of Hezbollah deaths in Syria.

NOW quoted the victims’ relatives as saying that some of the Hezbollah fighters killed in Syria were shot in the back of their head, implying that Syrian army troops who were unable to defect might have killed them.
Internally, Hezbollah is getting more strident in defending its actions in Syria:
During the funeral of a Hezbollah fighter who was killed in Syria, a prominent Hezbollah party official addressed the mourners amid their confusion about the deaths that their sons are being driven to.

The official defended Hezbollah's fighting alongside Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria and described it as a duty more important than any other. He described it as a fighting for existence as they are defending places that are important to the Shiite sect and that it is a pre-emptive strike for battles that may target the sect if the Assad regime falls.

It is a battle for life or death. This is how it is presented.

It is the party's new rhetoric towards its audience. The party recruited its officials to adopt this rhetoric to address its people in towns and funerals of the party members killed in Syria..

What attracts attention is that their rhetoric no longer includes any equivocation or evasion about fighting in Syria like what first happened when the party got involved in battles there. The rhetoric has now transferred to a progressive phase of mobilization that is still far from the media.
But it is treading lightly in the rest of Lebanon, knowing that this position is very unpopular and could threaten its political power:
It is clear that Hezbollah is confronting challenges presented in its new task of fighting in Syria. The task goes unannounced in the party's rhetoric. However the silence surrounding it does not exempt the party's fighters from its repercussions. They are the silent funerals of young men from southern and Beqaa towns. The funeral procession passes through these towns quietly and are only attended by some family members and friends.

Hezbollah does not seem to have succeeded in marketing the idea that it is participating in Syria's fighting for the sake of defending religious sites. This formula narrows Hezbollah's margin of movement in Lebanon. It also makes it a guardian of religious sites after it expanded and became an authority that derives its power from what is bigger than its ritual community. Hezbollah's authority in Lebanon has a base where alliances with other sects (the Aounis) mix with the illusions of resistance. It also mixes with a base of customers, like businessmen.

Hezbollah has certainly felt that. Silent funerals indicate the party's incapability to publicize their fight. The absence of a story and where the fighters were “martyred" confirm this. The silence surrounding the story of participation in Syria trespasses Hezbollah towards wider political and media circles. Hezbollah in Lebanon controls the biggest number of media outlets, whether written or audio or visual ones. All of the latter has not participated in the funeral processions. Social media is the only means informing the Lebanese of the events in these southern and Beqaa towns. And people of these towns circulate very brief stories mixed with confusion and hesitation in estimating the cost and the price.
Indeed, Hezbollah's Al Manar has nary a word about martyrdom in Syria.

Clearly, Hezbollah is nervous about the events in Syria. It stands to lose its main weapons route and probably its most direct way of getting cash from its Iranian masters.  And the majority of Lebanese do not want to get involved militarily in Syria, which Hezbollah already is doing itself.