The clash between Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah and Sunni Muslim rebels, in a religiously-mixed area southwest of the city of Homs, shows a growing role for Hezbollah in Syria’s war, which is deepening the Middle East’s sectarian divide… Fighting began on Saturday as Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, in control of eight Syrian border villages, tried to move into three adjacent villages held by Syrian Free Army rebels, said Hadi al-Abdallah of the Syrian Revolution General Commission.
Some off the fighters themselves are thought to have crossed into Syria directly from Lebanon. Hezbollah’s role inside Syria highlights the proxy nature of the conflict, which pits the Iranian and Shiite-backed Damascus regime against the Sunni-supported opposition. It also deepens concerns, expressed by a U.N. panel on Monday, that the sectarian fighting inside Syria has the potential to spill over regionally.
Hezbollah’s complicity in the Assad regime’s assaults on its own civilian populations raises the possibility that the group might be vulnerable to war crimes charges. Dr. Emanuele Ottolengh, the former head of the Brussels-based Transatlantic Institute and a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, outlined the case against Hezbollah [PDF] in late 2012:
As of March 2011, Hezbollah has actively taken part in the repression of Syria’s civil unrest alongside the Syrian regime…given the gruesome and ongoing nature of repression in Syria, Hezbollah is, in all likelihood, an accomplice to crimes against humanity, and acts of wonton and random ferocity against civilians in Syria.
Inside the European Union, Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian conflict has become tangled with mounting questions over blacklisting the group after Bulgarian officials issued a report linking the Iranian terrorist proxy to the July 2012 bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria that killed six civilians. Reports of Hezbollah atrocities across an array of theaters may finally force the E.U. to heed U.S. calls to formally acknowledge by official designation that the Iran-backed group, which has killed more Americans than any other terrorist group except Al Qaeda, is in fact a terrorist organization.
[Photo: Bo yaser / Wiki Commons]