Feeling the heat: Hezbollah funeral for fighter killed in Syria (file)
Feeling the heat: Hezbollah funeral for fighter killed in Syria (file)Reuters

A badly-overstretched Hezbollah may be resorting to using child soldiers to compensate for growing losses in the many theaters of battle it is currently engaged.

On Tuesday, the Iranian-backed Shia terrorist group's official news channel Al Manar announced the death of a young fighter, named as Mashhur Fahd Shamseddine, who it said was killed while "on jihadist duty" in Syria.

Although Shamseddine's age was not publicized in the Hezbollah announcement, a picture of the Shia Islamist group's latest "martyr" showed a remarkably young-looking teenager of no more than 16 or 17 years old.

According to numerous Arabic media outlets and at least one Syrian opposition source cited by Lebanese NOW news, Shamseddine was in fact only 15 years old.

His precise role in that conflict is not quite clear, but he appears to have been killed in the flashpoint Qalamoun region bordering Lebanon.

According to NOW, sources in southern Syria reportedly told the London-based Alaraby Aljadeed that he was killed "in the Israeli raid in Syria’s Qalamoun region, which targeted Hezbollah’s rocket silos".

That "strike," however, was denied by Israel, which said the explosions were the result of a rebel assault on the Hezbollah-held position.

That account was backed by a pro-rebel website, which claimed Shamseddine was killed together with another Hezbollah fighter in a rebel raid near the town of Flita in Qalamoun.

The rebel source speculated he was mostly likely killed while either on a training mission or on guard duty, as opposed to fighting on the front lines.

The use of child soldiers, even in auxiliary roles, underlines the extent to which Hezbollah is being stretched in its unprecedented deployment throughout the Middle East as part of the spearhead of Iran's increasingly aggressive foreign policy.

Since officially announcing its active participation in the Syrian civil war in support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad Hezbollah has lost hundreds of fighters, possibly more, in that war alone. Hezbollah manpower has also been deployed in Iraq and, according to numerous reports, in Yemen as well.

That - coupled with the need to maintain its presence in Lebanon - has also brought the group to the edge of bankruptcy, although despite dire predictions it appears its Iranian sponsors are still able to keep it afloat.