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Hezbollah denies deaths of 40 fighters in Syria clashes

Shiite group insists just three of its men died in week of battles against Islamic State, Nusra Front in Qalamoun

Hezbollah fighters carry the coffin of fellow Shiite fighter Hamza Hussein Zeiter during his funeral on May 5, 2015 in the town of Baalbek in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. The Hezbollah fighter was killed during clashes with members of Al-Nusra Front in the Syrian region of Qalamoun. (AFP)
Hezbollah fighters carry the coffin of fellow Shiite fighter Hamza Hussein Zeiter during his funeral on May 5, 2015 in the town of Baalbek in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. The Hezbollah fighter was killed during clashes with members of Al-Nusra Front in the Syrian region of Qalamoun. (AFP)

BEIRUT — The Lebanese Shiite Islamist group Hezbollah says three of its fighters have been killed fighting against Islamist Sunni groups in Syria near the border with Lebanon this week.

In a statement Friday, Hezbollah denied media reports that more than 40 of its fighters had died in the clashes, but confirmed that three Hezbollah fighters have been killed and their families informed.

Hezbollah has been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces against predominantly Sunni rebels seeking to topple him.

Fighting has intensified in the past week in the mountainous Qalamoun region across the border from Lebanon, where fighters from the Islamic State group and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front are entrenched. Hezbollah and Syrian government troops took control of areas near the border town of Assal al-Ward Thursday.

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