The US on Wednesday condemned Hezbollah’s entry into the Syrian civil war on the side of the Syrian government and demanded that the Lebanon-based, Iran-backed Shiite terrorist group pull its fighters out of Syrian territory.
“This is an unacceptable and extremely dangerous escalation,” State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said during a daily press briefing. “We demand that Hezbollah withdraw its fighters from Syria immediately.”
Hezbollah is on the US State Department list of terror organizations, and the group’s move to directly support embattled Syria President Bashar Assad by sending fighters to Syria is a radical departure from it’s avowed mission of defending Lebanon from Israel, which could have strong repercussions in Lebanon.
According to Salman Shaikh of the Brookings Institution think tank, Hezbollah has 5,000 troops fighting alongside Assad’s forces in Syria, with another 5,000 preparing to join them.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah admitted to the group’s involvement in Syria during a Saturday televised speech, after mounting Hezbollah casualties during ongoing fighting in Qusair, near the Lebanese border, become impossible to conceal.
Psaki said that, in the absence of a diplomatic solution to Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, the US would “escalate our aid and support” to the Syrian opposition if the group does not withdraw its fighters.
She also noted that the US was “deeply concerned about reports of multiple cross-border security incidents in recent days,” referring specifically to the Tuesday incident which saw three Lebanese personnel killed by unknown gunmen from across the Syrian border.