A third of Hezbollah’s fighters said killed or injured in Syria
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A third of Hezbollah’s fighters said killed or injured in Syria

With 1,300-1,500 dead, Iran-backed Lebanese militia, campaigning to defend embattled Assad regime, is no longer hiding its losses

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

A Hezbollah funeral for one of its fighters killed in Syria. (YouTube/Channel 4 News)
A Hezbollah funeral for one of its fighters killed in Syria. (YouTube/Channel 4 News)

The Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah has seen between 1,300 and 1,500 of its fighters killed in battles in the Syrian civil war, which means that together with the wounded it has lost as much as a third of its fighting force, according to Israeli estimates.

Some 5,000 of the organization’s members have been injured in fighting alongside regime troops against rebel groups, including the Islamic State.

Last weekend, Arab media published reports that Hezbollah had lost 14 fighters in battles with IS in the area of Baalbek near the border with Syria, and pictures of the fighters were published in Lebanese media. According to those reports, IS also took sustained casualties, with dozens of its members killed and many more injured.

Recently, Hezbollah has been publishing details of its members killed in Syria and is not trying to hide its losses, in contrast to its policy during the early years of the Syrian civil war, which broke out in 2011.

Fighters are now given official funerals and their coffins are covered with Hezbollah flags.

Along with its operations in the vicinity of the border between Syria and Lebanon, the Hezbollah campaign is also being carried out in other regions, such as the area known as Alawistan near Latika in northwestern Syria, the stronghold of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Over the last three months Hezbollah has also battled Syrian opposition groups in the Idlib area alongside members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and regular Syrian army forces, while enjoying massive Russian air cover as part of Moscow’s efforts to prop up its ally Assad.

However, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have also taken heavy loses: According to Iranian media reports 80 soldiers have killed and some were taken captive by various Syrian militia groups.

In July, Israel Radio reported that Hezbollah had arrested 175 of its own fighters after they refused to take part in battles in the Syrian city of Zabadani, close to the border with Lebanon.

The report also quoted the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat as saying that Hezbollah fighters dispatched to Syria to shore up the regime there had begun to show reluctance to confront the rebel groups seeking to overthrow Assad. According to the report, the hesitation began after 120 Hezbollah fighters were killed in confrontations with opposition groups and another 200 were wounded.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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