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Lebanon News

Hezbollah clamps down on fighters leaking battle secrets

This photo released by the Resistance News Network on March 14, 2014, allegedly shows a member from Hezbollah fighting against rebels in Yabroud, Syria. (The Daily Star/Resistance News Network, HO)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah is reorganizing its media strategy over Syria’s war after battle secrets and tactics were leaked by some of its fighters, a source close to the party told The Daily Star Friday.

The party will rework its media coverage by re-emphasizing secrecy with respect to its battles in the neighboring country, primarily by urging fighters not to divulge developments through photos or video footage taken on the ground.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV network is one of the few media outlets embedded with Syrian military and Hezbollah fighters in their battles against rebels. But for the past two days it has stopped broadcasting live reports from the battlefield.

The proliferation of photos and videos on YouTube and Twitter showing Hezbollah gunmen fighting Syrian rebels began with the battle of Qusair, a town close to the Lebanese border where Hezbollah won a decisive victory by driving out opposition fighters last spring.

The source said that the media presence was required at the time to wage psychological warfare, in addition to the physical battle.

After the fall of the Syrian city of Yabroud earlier this month at the hands of the Syrian army, backed by Hezbollah, numerous videos posted on YouTube emerged of the battle, in which Hezbollah gunmen could be seen in fierce battles with rebels.

The footage clearly showed the faces of fighters, breaching the secrecy that has shrouded the identity of Hezbollah personnel, whose identities are revealed only after their death.

Some photos emerged on social media showing Hezbollah fighters stepping on the bodies of dead Syrian rebels. In one video, Hezbollah fighters ask a wounded opposition militant where the dead bodies of their comrades are located.

According to the source, Hezbollah is stressing a return to its covert ways, a pillar that has characterized its resistance operations against Israel in the past three decades.

Another source close to the party said that Hezbollah’s leadership was even considering preventing Hezbollah fighters in Syria from carrying mobile phones, to avoid the emergence of photos or videos online.

Yabroud was the last Syrian town granting Syrian rebels access into east Lebanon and is believed to have been the place where cars intended for terrorist attacks in Lebanese areas associated with Hezbollah were rigged with explosives.

In May 2013, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah confirmed that his party intervened in Syria to prevent it from falling into the hands of takfiri groups, a reference to radical rebels. He added that these groups posed a grave threat to Lebanon and the resistance. Nasrallah said party fighters would be deployed wherever they were needed in Syria.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 29, 2014, on page 2.

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Summary

Hezbollah is reorganizing its media strategy over Syria's war after battle secrets and tactics were leaked by some of its fighters, a source close to the party told The Daily Star Friday.

Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV network is one of the few media outlets embedded with Syrian military and Hezbollah fighters in their battles against rebels.

The proliferation of photos and videos on YouTube and Twitter showing Hezbollah gunmen fighting Syrian rebels began with the battle of Qusair, a town close to the Lebanese border where Hezbollah won a decisive victory by driving out opposition fighters last spring.

After the fall of the Syrian city of Yabroud earlier this month at the hands of the Syrian army, backed by Hezbollah, numerous videos posted on YouTube emerged of the battle, in which Hezbollah gunmen could be seen in fierce battles with rebels.


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