February 20, 2013
By Ahmed Kwider and Kristen Gillespie
The opposition’s Syrian National Coalition on Wednesday denounced what it called Hezbollah and Iran’s interference in Syria, saying “the Iranian leadership is now issuing statements that… could be understood as a declaration of war against Syrians.” The SNC and the Syrian Revolution General Commission accused Hezbollah fighters of crossing into central Syria’s Homs province over the weekend and using rocket launchers to target three villages. “Hezbollah’s attacks come in light of a new escalation by the army forces in the Homs area,” said Hadi al-Abdullah, a Homs spokesman for the SRGC. The Lebanese group “has assembled a significant force in the Syrian villages it controls and is preparing to invade new villages” in the al-Qusayr district of Homs province, al-Abdullah said. Al-Qusayr is south of Homs, close to the Lebanese border. Hezbollah’s “strategy is a war of attrition against the FSA until it runs out of arms,” said Muhammed Abo al-Fida, a college student and activist from the Khalidiya neighborhood of Homs city. “What has happened in recent days is an attempt to occupy more villages [in al-Qusayr] held by the FSA,” al-Abdullah added. The growing Hezbollah presence is fueling sectarian tensions in the area. “Most of the fighters sent to Syria by Hezbollah go to Homs to protect the Alawites and assist the regime in setting up its own Alawite state, the capital of which will be Homs [city],” Abo al-Fida said, reflecting a popular theory among Syrians. While Lebanese fighters have maintained a presence in Syria for months, “Hezbollah’s invasion is the first of its kind in terms of organization, planning and coordination with the Syrian regime’s air force,” FSA spokesman Luay al-Miqdad told the Lebanese daily An-Nahar. The SNC said in a statement that Iranian officials are publicly calling for “the formation of forces that specialize in urban warfare,” tantamount to declaring war against Syria. The group also said it has documented cases of the Lebanese militia “committing crimes, murder, and violation of personal property against Syrian civilians.” A Hezbollah source confirmed that three Shiites died in the clashes in self-defense, but did not disclose further details.