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Syrian Army Attacks on Lebanon Threaten to Undermine Hezbollah’s “Lebanonization” Branding

A Syrian jet carried out an air strike in Lebanon yesterday, flying 12 miles into Lebanese territory and firing a missile near the border town of Arsal. The incident is the latest in a series of strikes and counterstrikes that have seen Lebanon-based groups cross-fight in Syria and the Syrian army bomb Lebanese territory. A Syrian bombing of another Lebanese border town last month killed at least six people and triggered harsh condemnation from Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, who called the cross-border attack an “unacceptable violation” of Lebanese sovereignty.

Meanwhile spokesmen for the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) are describing an “unprecedented deployment” of Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard fighters inside Damascus:

There is an “unprecedented deployment” of Hezbollah fighters and Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the heart of Damascus in support of Syrian regime troops, whose movements signal a large operation in the capital, the FSA said on Wednesday.
The Lebanese government has sought to adopt a policy of neutrality vis-à-vis the crisis in Syria. However, Hezbollah has been repeatedly accused of being directly involved in the conflict.

Lebanese sources also continue to convey reports of Hezbollah funerals for members of their forces killed inside Syria. Hezbollah has long attempted to brand itself as an indigenous Lebanese organization protecting Lebanese sovereignty, and Western foreign policy experts sometimes echoed those attempts and suggested that the group was undergoing “Lebanonization.” That the Iran-backed terror group is now fighting on behalf of a Syrian regime that is now regularly violating Lebanese sovereignty threatens to undermine its posture.

[Photo: Elgaard / Wiki Commons]