Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Lebanese Shi’ites are increasingly split on the issue of support for the government of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, according to sources in southern Beirut.
Involvement in the Syrian conflict has become increasingly contentious because of the mounting casualties incurred by Hezbollah members travelling across the border to fight alongside the Syrian armed forces, particularly around Damascus and Homs.
Residents of the southern suburb of Beirut, Hezbollah’s primary stronghold and security zone, are split over the issue, with some in support and others opposed to the group’s participation in the fighting in Al-Qusayr, the Governorate of Homs in central Syria.
At the same time, pro-Hezbollah Shi’ites agree on the need to fight in the Al-Sayyidah Zaynab area in the Damascus countryside, in defense of the shrine there.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also told Asharq al-Awsat that some Hezbollah followers support the group’s joining the ongoing fighting in Al-Qusayr on the basis of the resistance’s strategic goals, while those opposed say that this is a distraction from the central the aim of the group, fighting against Israel.
The sources noted that unease over the group’s participation has begun to spill over into the ranks of the fighters, some of whom refuse to take part in the fighting in Al-Qusayr.
Meanwhile, funerals for Hezbollah fighters killed in Syria continue. According to reports, some Hezbollah members were killed last week near the shrine of Al-Sayyidah Zaynab and elsewhere in Al-Qusayr. Hezbollah previously announced that Lebanese Shi’ite men were fighting in Al-Qusayr to defend it.
On Tuesday, Lebanon Now reported that Hezbollah held a funeral procession for one of its members, Muhammad Obayd, in the town of Ali al-Nahri. Quoting informed sources, the website said that he was killed in recent clashes in the border area adjacent to the Al-Qusayr countryside.
Last week, Hezbollah held another funeral for one of its fighters, Hamza Ghamlush, and buried him near the grave of his late commander Imad Mughaniyah in the Rawdat al-Shahidayn Cemetery in the Southern Suburb of Beirut. Hezbollah did not specify where he was killed.
Another Lebanese-based news site said that Ghamlush died defending the Al-Sayyidah Zaynab shrine. The website posted two pictures of him. One of the pictures showed him wearing military uniform and standing in front of the shrine.
These developments come at the same time as Lebanese authorities prepare to protest to the Arab League over what they allege are continuing Syrian violations of Lebanese sovereignty. The decision to make the protest was taken after two Lebanese citizens were killed and eight others wounded when Syrian opposition forces targeted the predominantly Shi’ite Village of Al-Qasr in Al-Hirmil.
The intention to send a letter of protest to the Arab League after Syrian opposition forces targeted Lebanese territories prompted Future Movement secretary general Ahmad Al-Hariri to criticize the “flagrant selectivity” in Lebanon’s dealing with the “aggressions.”
The Future Movement secretary general said: “No official move was made throughout the past months to protect the citizens and deploy the army all along the border to deal with a string of increasing aggressions against Irsal and the Akkar villages. At the same time, an emergency security meeting was convened fast after specific areas came under an aggression, the first of its kind.”
Hariri added: “the caretaker government responsible for the continuation of these aggressions has allowed the regime of Bashar Al-Assad to go too far in violating Lebanese territory. The main responsibility lies with Hezbollah, which has always warned us of the seriousness of its involvement in the fighting against the Syrian people.”