Hezbollah recruiting non-Shiites for ISIS fight: report
Nov. 12, 2014 /The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Hezbollah is recruiting young Christian, Druze and Sunni men in east Lebanon for the Resistance Brigades to fight ISIS, local newspaper An-Nahar reported Wednesday. The report said Hezbollah members in the northern and western parts of the Bekaa Valley were offering the recruits weapons and training “to counter the threat of ISIS and its affiliates.” As the recruitment was reportedly ongoing in the Bekaa, the report said similar training of Christians, Druze and Alawites was taking place in Syria, “but not under the Resistance Brigades.” Hezbollah formed the Resistance Brigades in 2009, recruiting Sunni allies into the group, which later sparked controversy when clashes erupted between the militia and residents in south Lebanon. Last year, Hezbollah reduced the number of the Resistance Brigades fighters from around 500 to between 200 and 250 and purged its ranks of those who had been exacerbating tensions with the local community, a source close to the party had told The Daily Star.
An-Nahar said “hefty” pay had been offered to those recruits who “directly” joined Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to fight in Syria, while more modest salaries are given to those volunteering with Hezbollah’s official military wing, the Islamic Resistance. As for militants who chose to join the militias of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party because of their secular beliefs or their non-Shiite identity, An-Nahar said they received wages similar to Hezbollah fighters. On the other hand, the report stressed that the Resistance Brigades did not operate in Syria and that its role was to monitor Lebanese territory and be ready to act against any move by Israel or a fundamentalist group. Relatives of those who return from the battle in Syria back to Lebanon said the fighters were earning monthly salaries between $1,500 and $2,500, according to the report.
Lebanon is engaged in a battle against jihadists from ISIS and the Nusra Front along its northern and northeastern border with Syria after the extremists briefly took over the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal early in August, capturing more than 30 Lebanese servicemen.
The militants have so far released seven hostages and killed three.
Also Wednesday, An-Nahar’s Elie Lahhoud published an interview with the head of the Resistance Brigades, who he said preferred to stay anonymous and use the nickname “Hajj.”According to the article, the meeting was held in the leader’s soundproof office. Hajj revealed that his militants had actually participated in the clashes with Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir’s militants in Sidon last year.The clashes erupted between Assir’s fighters, hiding in the Bilal bin Rabah mosque of Sidon’s Abra neighborhood, and soldiers of the Lebanese Army, leading to the death of 18 soldiers. Members of the brigades started acting before receiving their leaders’ permission, Hajj explained, and evacuated the Army soldiers who were wounded and killed in the clashes.
According to the group’s chief, the Hezbollah-affiliated fighters also directly clashed with pro-Assir militants coming out of the Ain al-Hilweh camp to attack Army troops, and succeeded to push them back. As for the Arsal clashes last August, he said the militants were ready with “the hand on the trigger,” but the Army’s special units did not need any support. He explained that the brigades would be fighting if any danger erupted on the Lebanon-Syria border, but stressed that the military information had been kept secret to protect the brigades’ structure and hierarchy. The group has been receiving “thousands” of applications from those wishing to join, according to Hajj, mostly coming from young Christian men. “The Deir al-Ahmar and Ras Baalbek groups of the Brigades are purely Christian, from the members to the leaderships, and they are in hundreds,” the chief said. “The battle against ISIS shall not be restricted to one Lebanese side,” he added in reference to Lebanese Shiites. “It is rather imposed on us all.”The leader “surprisingly admitted the actual participation in the battle.”While the group has been perceived as part of a Hezbollah tactic to penetrate into non-Shiite communities, their leader said the party was trying to spread the ideology of resistance and enhance it in all areas, while preserving the special characteristics of each community.