Troops from the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah will fight alongside Syrian regime forces for as long as necessary in order to eradicate Islamic State combatants in the embattled country, the deputy head of the Shiite organization’s executive council said Monday.
“There could never be a war of words between ISIS and us, but there is the field where we will defeat them,” Nabil Qaouk maintained, according to the Daily Star, a Lebanese media outlet.
“Day after day, it is becoming clear to Lebanon, the Arab, Muslim and international communities that there is a great need for Hezbollah to remain in Syria. The current situation today imposes on Hezbollah to stay in Syria more than any other time,” he added.
Qaouk, speaking during a ceremony in the village of Aita Shaab, claimed that Hezbollah, along with the Shi’ite Amal movement, has played a key roll in containing sectarian tensions in Lebanon in recent weeks, after two Lebanese soldiers were reported to have been brutally beheaded by Islamic State jihadists last week.
“The beheading of soldiers by ISIS was aimed at inciting strife between Sunnis and Shiites but Hezbollah and Amal succeeded in eliminating such strife, not just putting out the blaze,” he said, using an alternative abbreviation for the Islamic State group.
On Saturday, an apparent Islamic State supporter posted a photo to Twitter showing a masked man wearing black, holding the severed head of a bearded young man over his body. The corpse is lying in a pool of blood and, in the background, a man is holding up the black Islamic State flag. An Islamic State commander later told the Turkish Anadolu news agency Saturday that his group beheaded the Lebanese soldier for attempting to escape.
The image emerged four days after DNA testing confirmed that the body of a man whom jihadists had said they beheaded was that of Lebanese soldier Ali Sayyed. Sayyed had been captured by jihadists from the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front and the IS, along with some 30 soldiers and police in the eastern town of Arsal last month.
Qaouk said Hezbollah would fully support any effort by the Lebanese government to reclaim the border city of Arsal, adding that the Lebanese people would have to commit to tighten “the noose on the takfiris [the infidels] and strengthen the army so that it could free the soldiers [that remain in Islamist captivity].”
“Any delay in drafting a national defense strategy or in using strong cards would endanger the lives of soldiers and paves the way for takfiris [to launch] more attacks and provocations,” he said.
Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters to Syria over the past two years in a bid to bolster its ally Bashar Assad, who is combating opposition forces, many of them Islamist.
On Sunday, a senior IDF officer warned that Hezbollah could briefly capture a chunk of the Galilee, including some border communities, in an upcoming war with Israel.
The senior IDF official warned Sunday that while Hezbollah has no immediate plan to attack Israel, a minor security incident could erupt into a full-fledged war on Israel’s northern front.
In the event of a confrontation with Hezbollah, the fighting would likely last some four months, would have the Israel Defense Forces face some 30,000 troops, would incur extensive civilian casualties on the Lebanese side, and may see infiltration into northern Israeli towns to carry out attacks, the IDF official predicted.
Marissa Newman and Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.