Hezbollah to stay in Syria ‘until further notice’, leader says

Beirut: Hezbollah will stay in Syria “until further notice”, the leader of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hassan Nasrallah said Wednesday in a televised address.

“We will remain there even after the Idlib accord,” Nasrallah said, referring to a Russia-Turkey deal to prevent a Syrian regime offensive on the country’s last rebel-held stronghold.

“We will stay until further notice,” he stressed, speaking on the eve of the Shiite commemoration of Ashura.

“Our presence there is tied to necessity and to the consent of the Syrian leadership,” said Nasrallah, whose Hezbollah movement is backing the Damascus regime in the ongoing conflict.

Hezbollah officially entered the Syrian war in 2013 on the side of President Bashar al-Assad, who is also backed by Iran and Russia.

Moscow’s military intervention in 2015 marked a turning point in the conflict and enabled Assad to secure a series of victories against rebels and jihadists.

The regime now controls nearly two-thirds of the country and Nasrallah said such a change in fortunes would inevitably affect operations.

“Naturally, the calm of the front lines, and the decline in threats will have an impact on the numbers present,” he said.

Hezbollah has battled against Islamic State group jihadists as well as rebel groups in Syria.

Some 1,665 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Syria, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Moscow and Ankara — which supports some rebel groups — agreed on Monday to create a demilitarised buffer zone in Idlib, averting a regime assault on the province.

“With the Idlib accord, if everything is done correctly, we can suppose that Syria will head towards a great calm, and in concrete terms there will no longer be front lines,” said Nasrallah.

[source_without_link]Agence France-Presse[/source_without_link]