‘No one can bury heads in sand:’ Hezbollah leader calls for help fighting ISIS in Syria

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.(Reuters / Sharif Karim)
Calling it a global existential threat, Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has urged supporters to join the fight against the Islamic State, confirming that his Shiite militant group has been fighting the Sunni extremists all across Syria.

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“Today we are facing a kind of danger that is unprecedented in history, which targets humanity itself,” Nasrallah said Sunday during a televised broadcast referring to Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL).

“This is not just a threat to the resistance in Lebanon or to the regime in Syria or the government in Iraq or a group in Yemen,” the Shiite movement’s head continued. “This is a danger to everyone. No one should bury their heads in the sand.”

He called on volunteers to stand up against IS extremist fighters: “We invite everyone in Lebanon and the region to take responsibility and confront this danger and end their silence and hesitation and neutrality.”

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Nasrallah’s comments were made ahead of Monday’s anniversary of the retreat of Israeli troops from Lebanon in 2000.

The leader has confirmed for the very first time that Hezbollah members are fighting Islamic State together with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in various parts of Syria and not just around the border regions.

“We are fighting alongside our Syrian brothers, alongside the army and the people and the popular resistance in Damascus and Aleppo and Deir Ezzor and Qusayr and Hasakeh and Idlib,” he said. “We are present today in many places and we will be present in all the places in Syria that this battle requires.”

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Nasrallah also expressed disappointment with the US-led coalition against Islamic State, saying it was not effective and had not stopped jihadists from moving around freely.

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At the same time, he addressed the opposition, stressing that any support for the anti-Assad movement within Syria would only lead to more power in the hands of jihadists.

Sunni forces in Lebanon have been critical of Hezbollah’s role in Syria, as the group has not supported uprisings against Assad.

Lebanon is heavily affected by the Syrian conflict, as the majority of the refugees seeking shelter there are from the bordering war-torn state, with their number currently estimated at over 1.2 million.

The civil war in Syria started four years ago, when the Western-backed opposition began an armed rebellion against Assad’s government. By 2013, large portions of eastern Syria and western Iraq had fallen under control of militants from the Islamic State, which emerged amid the turmoil of the conflict, along with other extremist groups fighting against both Assad and the opposition. The conflict in Syria has claimed over 200,000 lives so far.

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