BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hezbollah’s deputy leader said the fall of the Syrian town of Qusair was a blow to American-Israeli interests and would prove that efforts to topple the Lebanese group’s ally President Bashar al-Assad were “delusional”.
Hundreds of Shi‘ite Hezbollah fighters joined Assad’s forces in the battle for Qusair, which sits on a strategic route between Lebanon and Syria.
Deputy leader Naim Qassem said the fight to defend Assad, who is believed to have allowed Iran to send Hezbollah weapons through Syria, was part of its struggle against the United States and Israel.
“The battle today has only one significance, and that is the fight against Israel and those who support its plans,” Qassem said in a statement. “Today we proved without any doubt that the gamble to topple Syria is a delusional plan.”
The Qusair offensive, which began two weeks ago, was the first time the group, which was founded to fight Israel, openly acknowledged playing a role in neighboring Syria’s two-year-old conflict.
The rebels trying to overthrow Assad are mainly Sunni Muslims, and the Syrian president is a member of the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi‘ism.
Hezbollah is believed to be fighting on the Lebanese border, around the capital Damascus and in the northern city of Aleppo.
Editing by Andrew Roche