BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Drastic rise in Hezbollah death toll as party battles for Yabroud

  • Funerals for Hezbollah “martyrs” have steadily increased since it joined Syria’s war. (The Daily Star/Nidal Solh )

BEIRUT: Deaths among Hezbollah fighters battling rebels in Syria have increased significantly in March, as the party fights alongside the Syrian army in its struggle to capture the rebel-held town of Yabroud in the Qalamoun Mountains. Hezbollah announced that 15 of its fighters died in March, saying they fell while carrying out their “jihadist duty.” Funerals were held in various areas across Lebanon including the Bekaa Valley, the Beirut southern suburbs and south Lebanon.

Facebook pages and websites affiliated with Hezbollah were flooded with photos of the dead fighters, who were mostly young, with relatives and supporters praising their “martyrdom.”

One Facebook page has posted sentences from a letter written by Hezbollah fighter Mohammad Baqer Jaber to his mother before his death.

“My wish is that you embrace me during the last moments of my life, but what relieves me is the fact that I know you will embrace me when I am in my shroud,” said the letter, posted above a photo of Jaber.

May God help the hearts of mothers who are losing angels that were born to live in the eternal world only,” a woman commented below the post.

Numerous videos posted on YouTube depict Hezbollah gunmen engaged in fierce battles with Syrian rebels in Yabroud. In one of the videos, Hezbollah fighters ask a wounded gunman from the Syrian opposition where the dead bodies of their fellow fighters are located.

Yabroud is the last town granting Syrian rebels access into east Lebanon. Many of the rigged cars that have exploded in Lebanese areas associated with Hezbollah were believed to have been loaded with explosives in Yabroud.

A source close to Hezbollah, who requested to remain anonymous, told The Daily Star that around 500 Hezbollah fighters had been killed since the party joined the civil war in Lebanon’s neighbor.

A website close to the party said that up until March 7, Hezbollah had lost 40 fighters in one month of fierce battles in Yabroud.

In the fall of 2012, Hezbollah, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, announced that its fighters were defending a string of Syrian villages inhabited by Lebanese of various sects, but mainly Shiites, in rural Qusair. The area is close to the Lebanese border.

Hezbollah also acknowledged it was sending fighters to a Damascus suburb to protect the Shrine of Sayyida Zeinab, the granddaughter of Prophet Mohammad, from attacks by Syrian rebels. Sayyida Zeinab is revered by Muslims, particularly Shiites.

But in May 2013, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah acknowledged that his party was heavily involved in Syria’s war in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of takfiri groups, in reference to radical Syrian rebel groups, adding that these groups posed a grave threat to Lebanon as well. Nasrallah said party fighters would be in any place they had to be inside Syria, expressing readiness himself to take part in the battles.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 10, 2014, on page 3.
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Summary

Deaths among Hezbollah fighters battling rebels in Syria have increased significantly in March, as the party fights alongside the Syrian army in its struggle to capture the rebel-held town of Yabroud in the Qalamoun Mountains.

In one of the videos, Hezbollah fighters ask a wounded gunman from the Syrian opposition where the dead bodies of their fellow fighters are located.

A source close to Hezbollah, who requested to remain anonymous, told The Daily Star that around 500 Hezbollah fighters had been killed since the party joined the civil war in Lebanon's neighbor.

A website close to the party said that up until March 7, Hezbollah had lost 40 fighters in one month of fierce battles in Yabroud.


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