Report: Hezbollah redeploying to help defend Damascus

A file picture taken on September 21, 2015 shows a portrait of Hassan Nasrallah (top), the head of Lebanon's militant Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah, and portraits of pro-government force members killed in combat displayed on a street in the Syrian capital, Damascus. (AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID)

A file picture taken on September 21, 2015 shows a portrait of Hassan Nasrallah (top), the head of Lebanon’s militant Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah, and portraits of pro-government force members killed in combat displayed on a street in the Syrian capital, Damascus. (AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID)

Opposition source says Lebanon-based militia sending troops to reclaim two areas around capital held by rebels

(SOURCE)   The militant Shi’ite organization Hezbollah is redeploying its fighters in Syria to help embattled ally President Bashar Assad defend Damascus, Lebanese news agency NOW reported Saturday. The report says that the Assad regime is struggling to defeat opposition forces around the Syrian capital.

Quoting Arabic-language pro-opposition website All4Syria, NOW says that Hezbollah fighters and Syrian National Defense Force militiamen are redeploying “en masse” from positions in the mountains west of Zabadani, a former rebel bastion near the Lebanese border that has been reclaimed by Assad-allied forces. Much of Hezbollah’s fighting had been concentrated in that area.

According to NOW, a rebel source told All4Syria that the forces were headed toward Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, where the Islamic State-allied Jaysh al-Islam has bisected the Damascus-Homs highway, and Darayya, a suburb of the capital that the regime recently failed to retake.

The Lebanese media reported in September that the Lebanon-based Hezbollah planned to shift to a defensive posture after helping Assad win back Zabadani. Officials from the organization informed the Assad regime that they would no longer help with offensives against rebel groups, according to the Beirut-based Daily Star.

The Iran-backed militia has suffered heavy casualties fighting in Syria since entering the war, with some estimating that it has lost over 1,000 fighters.

Israel fought a punishing month-long war against Hezbollah in 2006, but the group has kept to fiery rhetoric and low level attacks on Israel since then, with analysts saying the group has been too bogged down in Syria to open a new front against the Jewish state.

Joshua Davidovich contributed to this report.

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