Hezbollah will 'appropriately retaliate' to Western strike on Syria
Hezbollah signaled Wednesday it might not stand idle if Syria is attacked by the United States and its Western allies over its alleged use of chemical weapons.
The remarks by Hezbollah’s caretaker Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan were the closest so far by a senior party official about the group’s readiness to retaliate for a possible massive U.S.-led military strike on Syria.
“We should deal seriously with the U.S. decision to attack Syria. Hezbollah is following up and watching the situation and will do what is appropriate at the appropriate time,” Hajj Hasan told Al-Mayadeen TV station.
He did not elaborate on how Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to help forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in the war against armed rebels seeking to topple the regime, would react in the event of a large-scale assault on Syria.
“Any [Western] aggression on Syria is doomed to failure,” Hajj Hasan said.
He added that the planned attack on Syria was aimed at “weakening the Syrian Army,” which has been making military achievements recently against opposition groups backed by Western and Arab Gulf countries.
Hajj Hasan’s remarks come as the United States and its Western allies laid the groundwork for a possible punitive military strike against Syria amid warnings by Russia and Iran, Damascus’ key allies, of the dire consequences of such an attack.
A week after the purported chemical attack on rebel-held areas outside Damascus, momentum has been building among Western powers for a possible strike against the Assad regime.
The Syrian government has denied using chemical weapons against civilians. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem challenged Washington Tuesday to present proof backing its accusations that the Assad regime was responsible for the alleged chemical attack last week that killed hundreds of civilians in eastern Ghouta outside Damascus.
Political analysts and a senior source close to Hezbollah expected the group to respond only in the event of a massive strike on Syria aimed at changing the balance of power in the strife-torn country by firing rockets into Israel.
Fears of fallout from any Western attack on Syria on Lebanon’s security and stability, already shaken by the war in Syria, and the specter of a new wave of car bombings, have sparked calls from leaders of both sides of the political divide for national unity and a new Cabinet to confront security challenges.
President Michel Sleiman renewed his call to distance Lebanon from regional conflicts in light of rising tensions in the country following a spate of security incidents, including deadly car bombings in Beirut’s southern suburbs and the northern city of Tripoli.