On Thursday, the Joint Command of the Free Syrian Army issued a threat on the life of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah if he continues to provide aid to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. In a published message the Free Syrian Army (FSA) referred to Nasrallah as a “criminal”, said he was not immune to attack and indicated that they knew his whereabouts.
Addressing the Hezbollah leader directly, the FSA made some bold declarations on Facebook and other social media sites. “Your era has practically ended. Anyone who dares to attack our people and our land will pay a hefty price,” the message said. They also gave the Hezbollah militants a 48-hour deadline to cease the attacks.
“If Hezbollah shelling on Syrian land, on villages and unarmed civilians from inside Lebanese land does not stop in the next 48 hours from the release of this statement, we will take matters in our own hands to respond to the source of the shooting and stop it inside Lebanese territory,” the statement read.
A commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) said that rebels had started to attack the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, according to reports by the Turkish Anatolia news agency.
“We have bombed the territories of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria. The Free Syrian Army will continue bombing these positions,” Col. Hisam al-Avvak of the Group of Free Officers, which operates under the umbrella of the FSA, told Anatolia news agency.
Al-Avvak also threatened that the FSA would target Hezbollah strongholds in the south of Beirut. The Washington Post reported that such a move would mark a dangerous escalation of the conflict in Syria that could destabilize its politically volatile neighbor, Lebanon and the region in general.
Gen. Selim Idriss, the FSA chief of staff, said on Wednesday that Hezbollah had long been taking part in hostilities in Syria, but had gone too far by shelling villages near Qusayr in Homs province from the Bekaa valley in Lebanon.
After the 48-hour deadline was over, the commander of the rebels said, “as soon as the ultimatum ends, we will start responding to the sources of fire.” Rebels in the Qusayr area would be backed by FSA fighters “equipped with long-range weapons from other areas,” he said.
The FSA had also asked the Lebanese president and premier to intervene, Idriss said, but the office of Prime Minister Najib Mikati denied any contact with the Syrian rebels.
Hezbollah leader Nasrallah has denied sending fighters into Syria although he acknowledged that some of the Hezbollah militants were involved in clashes in the city of al-Qusayr. He further claimed that their actions, however, were purely defensive and they were operating as individuals and not under the group’s direction. However, on Saturday the Syrian National Council released a statement saying that Hezbollah fighters had crossed into Homs province and attacked three Syrian villages near the Lebanese border. The statement said that the Hezbollah attack had caused not only civilian casualties but also the exodus of hundreds of people, as it also provoked sectarian tensions in the area.
On Wednesday, the SANA state news agency reported that one player from the Homs-based al-Wathbah club football team had been killed and several others wounded when two mortars launched by terrorists hit the grounds of the Tishreen sports stadium in central Damascus. The players were in training at the time, the report said. Earlier, two mortar shells crashed into an area near the southern wall of the Tishreen Palace and two nearby hospitals, causing damage but no casualties, SANA quoted an unnamed official as saying. Syrian regime TV also claimed that security forces had detained a would-be suicide bomber with five bombs in his car, one of them weighing 300 kg.
The pro-regime Tishreen newspaper reported that the Syrian forces had captured many machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, hand-made rockets, mortar shells and anti-tank missiles during an attack on armed gangs and terrorists in Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and Idlib.
Thursday marked one of the bloodiest days in Damascus since the uprising began almost two years ago as a car bomb exploded near Syria’s Baath party headquarters in the capital killing at least 53 people and scattering mangled bodies among the blazing wreckage. In other parts of the city, 22 people were killed as two other bombs struck intelligence offices and mortar rounds hit the Syrian military’s central command, according to reports by activists. There were reports that more than 200 were wounded in the attacks, including children.