Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah Flash 90

The Lebanese Shi’ite terror group Hezbollah has reportedly refused demands by Russia that it withdraw its forces from southwestern Syria as part of larger removal of foreign military assets from the vicinity of the Israeli border.

According to a report Thursday by the London-based anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Russia has demanded that Hezbollah pull out from large parts of war-torn Syria, as part of an understanding with Israel regarding the withdrawal of non-Syrian forces from the vicinity of the Israel-Syria border.

Last month, following talks with Israeli officials, Russia expressed support for the removal of non-Syrian forces from southwestern Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov endorsed the “withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces” – a long-standing Israeli demand, aimed primarily at Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and its allies, including Hezbollah.

Shortly afterwards, the SOHR reported that Iranian forces were preparing to withdraw from southern Syria, pulling back away from the Israeli border. Russia has sought to avoid accidental “military incidentswith Israel, and prevent a massive escalation between Israel and Iranian forces in Syria.

But according to the SOHR Thursday, Hezbollah has refused Moscow’s demands, and is in fact “renewing its ranks” in western Syria in defiance of Russia’s calls for a withdrawal.

Last week, Iranian officials denied claims Tehran was preparing to pull out of Syria.

“Iran and Syria enjoy deep relations that would not be influenced by the propaganda measures of anyone,” said Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri, an advisor to Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces.