Illustration: Hezbollah parade
Illustration: Hezbollah paradeReuters

Hezbollah is enlisting 15,000 fighters for what it is calling the “battle for Damascus,” Reshet Bet reports. The report is based on information from sources in the Syrian opposition.

Hezbollah has been heavily involved in fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad as he battles opposition groups.

Hezbollah recently claimed to have taken the decision to withdraw 1,200 of its troops from Syria and to focus on security in Lebanon, where the group’s strongholds have been targeted in terror attacks.

However, this latest reports suggests the purported withdrawal may have been a diversion aimed at lulling the group’s opponents in Syria into a false sense of security, as well as an attempt to offset growing dissent against the group back in Lebanon.

Al-Arabiya reports that Hezbollah and other groups fighting with Assad have been tightening the siege on areas south of the Syrian capital. Fierce fighting has been reported in the region, and rebel groups have reported Hezbollah and Iraqi involvement.

Assad has turned to various groups of foreign fighters for help in his battle to maintain power, including Hezbollah, Iran, and North Korea. His opponents have had significant help from overseas as well; several thousand Islamist fighters from the Muslim world - and some from Europe, Israel and the United States as well - have reportedly joined the battle against Assad.

Foreign diplomats in Lebanon reportedly expressed concern at the news regarding Hezbollah’s latest plans. A United States representative said that if Hezbollah follows through on its plans, it would probably lead to the cancellation of the planned Geneva II conference on ending Syria’s civil war.

Russian officials reportedly told Lebanese leaders that Russia is working to prevent a Hezbollah assault in Syria.

Lebanon fears that a major campaign in Syria would lead a fresh wave of Syrian citizens to flee across the border. Lebanon is already struggling to provide for the nearly 800,000 Syrians who have sought refuge in within its borders, and who now make up nearly 25% of the population.