A large number of Hezbollah terrorists who were fighting alongside Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria have reportedly been pulled out of the country and returned to Lebanon, the group’s home base.
Of the over 10,000 Hezbollah members who took part in Syria’s bloody civil war this summer, only “a few thousand” remain in the country, according to a diplomatic source cited by the (London) Times.
Over the past few weeks, the Shiite terror group has faced heavy pressure from the Lebanese government, as well as from the rest of the Arab world, to withdraw its troops. Lebanese officials claimed that Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria was causing harm to Lebanon’s diplomatic ties with the surrounding Arab states, and prompting local sectarian violence.
Lebanon has been the scene of several recent attacks, perceived as retaliatory strikes for Hezbollah’s assistance to Assad.
A gun battle in Baalbek between members of the terrorist group and residents in mid-September left at least three people dead. And in August, a car bombing killed 22 people in a Hezbollah stronghold in south Beirut. Earlier in July, another car bombing occurred without fatalities.
Sources close to Hezbollah denied it had pulled the fighters because of political pressure, and the group itself denied any such withdrawal whatsoever, according to the British Times report.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah publicly admitted in May for the first time that his combatants were involved in fighting alongside the Assad regime.
”Syria is the back of the resistance, and the resistance cannot stand, arms folded, while its back is broken,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
The deployment of Nasrallah’s fighters in Syria had a tangible impact on the raging civil war, helping to bolster the Syrian regime.
Hezbollah members played a key role in the Syrian army’s recapturing of the city of Qusair in early June. But while fighting in the area of Homs, the Shiite group suffered heavy losses, and was unable to push back rebel forces from the region.
Hezbollah receives military training, financial support and weapons from Iran. According to the Middle East Forum, a conservative American think tank, the US estimates that Iran provides the terror organization with $60 million-$100 million annually.