Assad: Hezbollah not leaving Syria yet, war against terrorism to continue

Assad: Hezbollah not leaving Syria yet, war against terrorism to continue
The war against terrorism in Syria is far from over and so it’s too early to discuss the withdrawal of Hezbollah forces from the country, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in his latest interview.

Ever since the conflict in Syria broke out, Lebanese Hezbollah fighters have offered substantial support to the Syrian Arab Army in battling the jihadist insurgency.

“The battle is long and ongoing.... but in the end Hezbollah is a basic element in this war – the battle is long, and the need for these military forces will continue for a long time. When there is a need, and when Hezbollah, Iran, or others believe that terrorism has been eliminated, they will tell us that they want to go home,” Assad told Iranian Al-‘Alam TV on Wednesday.

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Hezbollah’s growing influence and the support it receives from Iran has repeatedly angered Israel, which carried out a number of raids against the organization it considers as terrorist. In his interview with the Iranian news outlet, Assad accused Israel of having no “conviction” or “morality” with respect to international law, when it comes to launching raids to protect terrorists.

“Since the beginning of the war, particularly when it started to have a clear military nature on the southern front in particular, the Israelis used to shell Syrian forces continuously, and consequently provide direct support to the terrorists. Israeli artillery and aircraft are the terrorists’ artillery and aircraft,” Assad said.

Syria will continue to build up its air defenses to tackle Israeli aggression and will continue to fight the jihadists to secure its sovereignty, the Syrian president vowed.

“The more these capabilities improve; the response will be better and higher. But, in fact, the strongest response to Israel now is to strike the Israeli army existing in Syria which consists practically of the terrorists,” Assad stressed.

When asked bluntly by Hosein Murtada of Al-Alam if Damascus considers the militants terrorizing Syrians to be a de-facto “Israeli army” on the ground, Assad replied that they are “acting clearly and starkly in Israel’s interest.”

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“The first acts they carried out were attacks against the air defense systems. What is the link between air defense systems and the terrorists acting as infantry on the ground? This was an Israeli order. It was an Israeli-American order because it is the same thing. So, they are Israel’s army inside Syria; and the first strike against Israel, politically, militarily, and in every other area, is to strike Israel’s terrorists inside Syria, whether they belong to ISIS, al-Nusra, or the other,” the 52-year-old Syrian leader explained.

Assad went on to claim that the war in Syria is a standoff between two axes, one represented by the US, Israel, and regional “Arab and non-Arab states,” and the real anti-terrorist axis, comprising forces fighting alongside Damascus.

“So, there can be only one result for this confrontation, that is, the victory of one of these axes,” Assad said. “At least, as far as the anti-terrorist axis is concerned, it will not give up the process of cleaning Syria and the region of terrorism and will not give up on the unity of Syrian territory.”

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