BEIRUT – Hezbollah has allegedly clashed with Syrian army troops north of Aleppo, according to activist media reports, which were strenuously denied by pro-regime outlets.
The Local Coordination Committees reported shortly after 2:30 a.m. Thursday that fighting was ongoing between Hezbollah fighters and Syrian regime forces in the Al-Breij district just northeast of the city of Aleppo.
Earlier in the night, the pro-rebel outlet claimed that the road linking Aleppo to the Kurdish-controlled Afrin canton to the northwest had been cut due to the clashes.
“A number of travelers in the region are stranded as a result of the fighting,” LCC’s local correspondent said.
Another activist outlet, Step News, reported a little after midnight that pro-regime troops fought each other in the Mayasat and Haylan areas of the Al-Breij district, but did not directly name as Hezbollah one of the belligerents.
Meanwhile, the pro-rebel Halab Today also reported that Hezbollah fought regime forces in Mayasat and Haylan, but did not go into further details on the purported battle, which would be the first time Hezbollah fought the Syrian army during the country’s civil war.
Shaam News Network, for its part, claimed that the clashes erupted after Hezbollah accused regime forces of abandoning their positions in recent battles in southern Aleppo, leaving Hezbollah fighters in the region “easy prey for the [rebel] Army of Conquest [coalition].”
In recent weeks Islamist fighters in southwest Aleppo have inflicted heavy casualties on pro-Assad troops amid an incremental push-back of regime lines in the flashpoint front.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Thursday morning that at least 8 Hezbollah fighters were killed in fighting in southwest Aleppo the previous night, while the pro-Hezbollah website SouthLebanon.org, which publicizes funerals of the militia's fighters, noted the death of five Hezbollah combatants Wednesday in Syria.
Local pro-regime outlets denied activist reports of fighting between Hezbollah and other pro-regime troops overnight Wednesday.
“There is no truth to what opposition sites published on clashes between the Syrian army, Al-Quds Brigade and Hezbollah, all of them ate together for Suhoor,” the Muslim morning meal before the Ramadan daytime fasting period, a news page based in the Shiite-populated towns of Nubl and Zahraa claimed.
The pro-regime Aleppo News Network, in turn, said that the Syrian opposition was fabricating reports of the fighting to deflect from the “losses suffered by the armed groups in the countryside of Aleppo.”
Airstrike in area of clashes
Amid the reports of fighting between Hezbollah and Syrian army troops, contradictory reports have emerged regarding an airstrike in the area.
Lebanese online outlet Janoubia, which has an editorial line opposing Hezbollah, claimed that the Syrian regime conducted three airstrikes against fighters from the Shiite party.
Hours before the Janoubia report, local activist outlets claimed that a regime airstrike “accidentally” hit Syrian army troops in Mayasat, one of the focal points of the alleged clashes.
The Aleppo Media Center reported shortly before midnight that explosions were heard in heard in Mayasat as a result of regime warplanes hitting their own troops in a friendly fire incident.
It cited “military sources” as saying that 20 regime troops were killed in the airstrike.
Step News Agency also said that an “accidental airstrike” hit regime troops in Mayasat, but claimed the raid was conducted by Russian jets.
Neither outlet said the strike targeted Hezbollah fighters or that it had anything to do with the alleged clashes overnight Wednesday.
NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated the Arabic-language source material.