Some 250 Hizballah dead in Qalamoun battle. Nasrallah pushes Lebanese army to enter Syrian war
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 13, 2015
Amid Hizballah’s rising war losses, its leader Hassan Nasrallah strongly urged the Lebanese chief of staff Gen. Jean Kahwagi to send his troops into battle over the strategic Qalamoun Mountain, alongside Hizballah and the Syrian army, debkafile’s military sources disclose. Nasrallah argued that the time had come for the Lebanese army to take a hand in the fighting, since the Syrian rebels led by Al Qaeda’s Syrian arm, the Nusra Front, were shelling the eastern Beqaa Valley of Lebanon from their Syrian strongholds on the mountain that sits athwart the Syrian-Lebanese border. Thousands of jihadis, he said, were seizing land around the northeastern Lebanese villages of Arsal and Nahleh.
Another of Nasrallah’s demands was for Gen. Kahwagi to bring out the Lebanese army’s heavy artillery to shell rebel Qalamoun concentrations, positions and moving vehicles, because they endangered Lebanese national security.
The Lebanese general gave the Hizballsah chief a flat no. He declared the Lebanese army would not “slip” into any war inside the Syrian area of Qalamoun where Hizballah and the Syrian army are currently fighting jihadis, but added: “The army is ready to confront any assault on Lebanese sovereignty and push back any infiltration by militants.”
Tuesday, May 12, in Beirut, US Ambassador David Hale interceded in the argument: “I would say that ISIS posed no threat to Lebanon until Hizballah went into the war in Syria and that provided the magnet that drew these terrorists here.”
Listing the American weapons reaching Beirut of late, as Hellfire missiles fired from helicopters against ground targets, precision guided missiles and howitzers, the ambassador said firmly: “This is exactly what they (the Lebanese army) need to target this particular terrorism phenomenon.”
debkafile’s military and counter-terrorism sources don’t believe that the Lebanese army chief will be able to hold out for long against the gradual ISIS and Nusra slide into his country. At the moment, the intruders are mostly fleeing Islamists, driven by the Syrian army and Hizballah from their mountain positions and out of the eastern Lebanese border districts close to the battle front.
But although the Syrian army and Hizballah are claiming to have taken strategic hills in the volatile border region last week, the battle is far from over and does not appear to be anywhere near a clear resolution.
Even when Syria and Hizballah do achieve a local gain here or there, fresh ISIS and Nusra forces keep on pouring back – mostly from the north – to constantly open up new battlefronts on the Qalamoun mountains. Their commanders have already grasped that no one will stop them slipping back and forth between Syria and Lebaon – both to escape Syrian and Hizballah fire and meanwhile to hit Hizballah’s rear strongholds in the Lebanese Beqaa.
Hizballah’s death toll in battle is soaring disastrously – at least 250 reported in the last few days, including 9 senior commanders.
Most military and intelligence experts agree that, as time goes by, however hard they try, the United States and Lebanese army will not be able to stem the jihadists’ spillover into the Beqaa Valley.