A rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander has threatened to launch attacks against the Shia militant group Hezbollah in neighbouring Lebanon.
General Selim Idriss, a top commander who describes himself as the FSA ‘chief of staff’, has issued Hezbollah a 48 hour ultimatum and warned that his forces will launch attacks on Hezbollah positions in Lebanon if his demands are not met.
The warning comes just a few days after Syrian opposition groups accused Hezbollah of launching an ‘unprecedented invasion‘ of Syria, by attacking three villages close to the Lebanese border in the Homs province. Hezbollah confirmed that its fighters had clashed with rebels, but claimed that they were acting in self defence.
Rebels have been accusing Hezbollah of military involvement in support of President Bashar al Assad since close the beginning of the conflict. Lebanon-based Hezbollah have always denied this and claimed that their presence in the country is purely to provide humanitarian aid and other non-military assistance.
Now General Idriss is claiming that Hezbollah have been launching mortar attacks on rebel positions close to the border. If these attacks do not stop within 48 hours his fighters would “start responding to the sources of fire”. Given that he also stated that the attacks were coming from inside Lebanon (Bekaa Valley), this seems to suggest that he is threatening to launch cross-border attacks. He also claimed that his forces would call in the support of rebels from other parts of the country who are ”equipped with long-range weapons” in order to do this.
“Hezbollah is abusing Lebanese sovereignty to shell Syrian territory and Free Syrian Army positions. In the past week… Hezbollah has been shelling into villages around Qusayr from Lebanese territory, and that we cannot accept,” he said.
Lebanon itself is divided between supporters Shi’ites and other Hezbollah supporters who back the government in Syria, and primarily Sunni groups such as the March 14 movement who back the rebels. Clashes have broken out in the past between the two groups, but fears of widespread violence crossing the border from Syria into Lebanon have fortunately not materialized so far.
Recent events will heighten fears that the Syrian war could spill out from the borders of that country to engulf its neighbours.