BEIRUT: Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah announced Saturday the large-scale involvement of his party in the war in neighboring Syria, saying his party’s fighting against Syrian rebels aimed at protecting the resistance group.
“We are now in a totally new phase that began a few weeks ago. This new phase aims at fortifying the resistance and protecting its backbone, fortifying Lebanon and protecting its backbone,” Nasrallah said.
“We will assume this responsibility and endure all the sacrifices and consequences that come with taking such a stance,” he said.
The Hezbollah leader spoke via televised screen, addressing a rally in the Bekaa Valley village of Mashgara held to mark the 13th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon.
“As I have always promised you of victory, I promise you victory again,” he said.
The party’s growing involvement in the fighting in Syria alongside the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has become more apparent in recent days. On Sunday, Syrian troops backed by Hezbollah fighters launched a massive offensive against the rebel-held town of Qusair near the border with Lebanon.
Nasrallah justified his party’s actions in Syria, citing the danger of the growing presence of takfiri groups in Syria, repeated threats from Syrian rebels and that his group would become a target of the United States and Israel should Assad fall.
Nasrallah said that Takfiri groups, who consider as infidels all Muslims not sharing their extremist ideology, were the prominent force in rebel-held areas in Syria.
“We have been promised this disease will reach Lebanon and here lies the danger,” he said.
“This ideology does not accept dialogue for the slightest reason: it labels others as infidels and sanctions their bloodshed,” he said, adding that takfiri groups would pose a threat to Lebanon, and all its religious components, should they seize Syrian governorates, particularly ones on the border with Lebanon.
He also said the Syrian opposition had from the very beginning of the unrest in Syria threatened to target Hezbollah.
“Since the outset of the unrest ... some in the opposition addressed us saying: the regime will fall and we are coming to target you in Lebanon,” he said.
Nasrallah said the resistance could not remain silent and allow Syria to fall into the hands of the U.S., Israel and takfiri groups.
“Syria is the backbone and supporter of the resistance. The resistance cannot stand by idly when its backbone is exposed,” he said. “We would be foolish to do so,” he added.
He said that if Syria fell under the control of the U.S., Israel and takfiri groups then the resistance would find itself cornered. Should this happen, Nasrallah continued, Israel would impose its conditions on Lebanon and revive its designs in the country.
“If Syria falls, then Palestine and the resistance in Palestine will be lost as well,” he added.
Since the launch of the offensive on Qusair, Hezbollah has held funerals for several of its fighters that have been killed in the battles with rebels.
Nasrallah boasted that the morale of his fighters and families of fighters who had been killed in the battles was high, despite media campaigns against Hezbollah.
“We will continue to assume our responsibility as a resistance despite media campaigns and pressures ... we have been on the terrorist list since a long time. This makes no change,” he said.
France hoped Thursday an initiative could be agreed by the end of June to put the armed wing of Hezbollah on the EU's list of terrorist organizations.
“Since 30 years, we have been living not only in the battlefield, but also facing a political and psychological warfare,” Nasrallah said.
He reiterated his call for sparing Lebanon any armed confrontation that could spill over from Syria.
“We are fighting in Syria, you are fighting in Syria, let us continue to fight there,” he said. “Put Lebanon aside.”
The Hezbollah leader said the ongoing clashes in north Lebanon between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad should cease.
“What is happening in Tripoli should stop ... let those who want to support the opposition or Syrian regime go fight in Syria,” he said.
Nasrallah also slammed the Lebanese state for not equipping the Army or preparing the home front against any possible Israeli aggression.
“The problem is that the Lebanese state has never treated Israel as an enemy,” he said.
“Since 2006 and up till now, Israel held annual home front drills ... now it says it has a strong home front and is ready to fight on all fronts.”
“What preparations has Lebanon made? What did the Lebanese state do?” he asked.
He said that the resistance group could only confront Israel, slamming the defense strategy of President Michel Sleiman which calls for placing Hezbollah's arms under the command of the Army.
“If we accept to place the resistance and its arms under the command of the state ... it will be the end of the resistance,” he said.
“We have a state that cannot stop the bloody fighting in Tripoli or agree on an electoral law. Do you imagine that such a state can make a decision to confront the enemy?”
Touching on parliamentary elections scheduled for June, Nasrallah slammed the March 14 coalition of falsely accusing his group of seeking a political vacuum in the country.
“We decided to submit our candidacies under the 1960 law before March 14 officials in order to tell them that we oppose a vacuum, [and are ready to run in the general elections] even under the 1960 law,” Nasrallah said.
Although opposed by most political groups, hopefuls from various political parties submitted their candidacies under the 1960 law on Friday.
But Nasrallah said his party supported extending Parliament’s term as another option as well.