Monday, August 30, 2010

Report: Hezbollah, Syria to join forces in future clash with Israel

Ha'aretz reports:

Kuwait's al-Rai daily says Lebanon-based group, Syrian army have created a joint military command, dividing potential war fronts.

By Jack Khoury and The Associated Press

The Lebanon-based Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah and the Syrian army have initiated a significant military cooperation in joint preparation for the possibility of a future armed conflict with Israel, the Kuwaiti daily al-Rai reported on Monday.

The report came as Syrian president Bashar Assad urged Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri earlier Monday to support Hezbollah and maintain calm in the divided country.

Speaking with al-Rai Monday, sources have indicated that Hezbollah and Syria have formed a joint headquarters meant to orchestrate the cooperation between the two forces, which is to be commanded by two officers – one from the Syrian military and one from Hezbollah.

The joint command, the report said, would ensure full cooperation in land, sea, and air warfare, as well as take care of the positioning of anti-aircraft missiles in both Lebanon and Syria in order to confront the possibility of an Israeli nuclear assault.

Recent exchanges between the two organizations reportedly included trading information regarding strategic sites within Israel, including airports and other facilities, as well as dividing up the prospective war fronts between themselves.

The report also stated that Damascus and Hezbollah also worked together on the possibility of joint artillery strike against Israel, as well as drawing up a collective plan for the defense of vital Lebanon, Syria sites in case of an Israeli attack.

The two organizations also reportedly shared information gather by Hezbollah following the Second Lebanon War in 2006, including military conclusions and tactics.

The al-Rai report also stated Syria's contentment with Turkey's recent announcement that it would ban Israeli warplanes from entering its airspace, since it prevents the possibility of an Israeli airstrike from that direction.

Earlier Monday, Syria's Assad urged Lebanon's leader to support Hezbollah and maintain calm in the country.

The two leaders met in Damascus for a pre-dawn meal called suhour, the last meal before the daytime fast resumes for the holy month of Ramadan, the Syrian state-run news agency reported.

Hariri has visited Damascus repeatedly this year in a sign of Syria's renewed influence over Lebanon in the years since Damascus withdrew its military in 2005, ending a nearly three-decade hold on Lebanon. Hariri's visits indicate that he needs Syrian support as his Western-backed coalition struggles at home.

Syria backs the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which has a large role in Lebanon's fragile national unity government.

Last week, street battles in Beirut between the Shiite militant Hezbollah and a small Sunni group killed three people, exacerbating sectarian tensions in Lebanon. Later Monday, Hariri was expected to head the first meeting of a new committee formed to discuss ways of ridding the Lebanese capital of weapons.

Also Monday, Iranian ISNA news agency quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying that Lebanon's resistance groups, along with Iran must stand together to thwart what he called foreign aggressors, adding that such an alliance would work against the "enemies of humanity."

"Enemies are endeavoring to damage Lebanon's solidarity and unity, but Lebanese' resistance groups will thwart their plots and conspiracies with their tact and promotion of solidarity," the Iranian president added.