Lebanon's Hezbollah terrorist group has mobilized its fighters in preparation for a possible attack by US and allied forces on the organization's Syrian allies, according to reports.
The Lebanese Daily Star quoted the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar news agency as claiming Tuesday that Hezbollah has "called on all its officers and members to man their positions."
The Shia Islamist group has not publicly confirmed any such mobilization, and a Hezbollah spokesman declined to comment on the reports. But residents of the southern Lebanese city of Tyre told AFP reporters that there did appear to be some kind of mobilization going on, noting that many Hezbollah fighters have disappeared from local villages in the last five days, and have turned their phones off in an apparent bid to prevent their movements from being tracked.
A similar scenario is playing out in the Bekaa Valley, a Hezbollah stronghold in the east of the country.
In southern Beirut - also a Hezbollah stronghold and the site of two car bombs targeting the group in recent months - residents said that more experienced fighters had been replaced at local checkpoints by teenage recruits, indicating that Hezbollah veterans had been moved elsewhere.
Just a day before, Al-Akhbar reported that the "Syrian army has mobilized units that have not participated until now in the conflict," adding that "the Islamic resistance (Hezbollah) has called on all its officers and members to man their positions."
That report came on the same day as a Kuwaiti paper claimed that Hezbollah plans to attack Israel from Syria, as opposed to Lebanon, in the event of a US strike on the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Israel's Channel 2 reported Saturday evening that Hezbollah has told Lebanese President Michel Ayoun that it has no intention of opening fire on Israel in case of an attack on Syria, on the heels of warnings by secular and Sunni politicians that they will not tolerate the Iranian-backed group dragging their country into yet another destructive war on behalf of Syria and its Iranian sponsors.
Hezbollah has played a crucial role fighting in the Syrian civil war alongside pro-regime forces, and its involvement has further increased regional sectarian tensions, particularly within Lebanon itself.
Syrian officials have repeatedly warned that the regime would retaliate to a US strike by attacking Israel, and the Israeli military has made preparations for such an eventuality - calling up some reservists and deploying missile defense batteries in the north of the country.
Israeli politicians - including Prime Minister Netanyahu - have called for calm, and cautioned the country's foes against attacking it in response to a US strike.