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Fidaa Itani

The tragedy of a former resistance

With its change of strategy and intervention in the Syrian war, Hezbollah is the crow that tried to imitate the partridge and forgot its own walking style

Local residents and members of Hezbollah inspect the site of an attack on a Hezbollah checkpoint in the Khraybeh area in the Bekaa Valley on September 21, 2014 (AFP Photo/STR)

Twenty-four hours after the Brital Mountains attack, the Al-Nusra Front – Al-Qaeda in Syria – published a video showing the various stages of a military operation that targeted a Hezbollah position outside Brital, not far from the city of Baalbek.

 

On October 5, clashes broke out on the Bekaa side of the Anti-Lebanon Mountain Range, and involved at least four positions. This time, the clashes were relatively distant from Arsal. The fighters came from Syria’s Assal al-Ward area, crossed the supposed border and penetrated several kilometers into Lebanese territory before setting up artillery. Their foot soldiers then proceeded to infiltrate a Hezbollah position, supposed to function as a monitoring and early-warning post, where they carried out a classic guerrilla attack. The fighters eventually took control of the position, killed those in it, and then seized the ammunition and withdrew to the mountains once again as the wounded fled.

 

In the first hours of the clash, the only information came from the Lebanese side; either security sources or people who had fled the area near the fighting. The violence of the artillery response suggested that ferocious battles were underway in the mountains. Hezbollah leaked information to news agencies – the French press in particular – saying that hundreds of fighters had attacked their position, and later on that two of its members had been killed. Meanwhile, party supporters in Baalbek where calling on residents to donate blood from every group to the area’s hospitals.

 

Initial information was that dozens of Nusra members had been killed, similar numbers injured, and that artillery shelling had continued into the night. Later, additional information was leaked to journalists about Lebanese Armed Forces participation in shelling operations and the recapture of all the positions.

 

The next day, the Nusra Front published a video and we were confronted with two stories. Hezbollah can easily change its version, especially as it has not yet released it as an official statement, while the Al-Qaeda affiliate’s recorded story was quickly removed from YouTube.

 

Hezbollah later announced that of eight of its members had been killed; most of them from Bekaa areas near the scene of the clash, while Nusra said it had killed 11 Hezbollah members and announced the death of one of its own. The losses to each side are no longer very different, with the former attacker now occupying a defensive position. Salafist fighters have become adept at guerrilla warfare and begun to confront the former master with its own tactics.

 

For a long time Hezbollah trained its fighters for surprise guerilla warfare and defense in small groups. Its activities in resisting Israel were made legend, and the image of fighters taking part in that resistance was romanticized. This attracted young volunteers and earned the reverence of the masses.

 

The party’s military media was responsible for promoting the image of a resistance fighter who climbed the mountains to strike the occupier in the hills; a fighter who returned with minimal losses, sowing fear in his enemy’s heart and destroying his morale. This image would never have waned if the party had not gone to war in Syria and been forced to play the role of its former enemy: a semi-regular force facing a people’s resistance (regardless of the fact that the group which carried out this latest attack is ideologically and organizationally affiliated with Al-Qaeda.)

 

Today, Hezbollah is living the nightmare it once inflicted on the Israeli occupation by using small groups of fighters and swift withdrawals. It is being attacked by small groups, no bigger than two platoons, or 50 members. They kill, wound and plunder as much as they like before withdrawing. Worse than that, they film the insides of positions and the TOW missiles being taken away; something the party was never able to accomplish against its Israeli enemy.

 

The party occupied the upper hills of the Anti-Lebanon Mountain range to protect its military compounds further inland and prevent supplies from reaching fighters in Syria’s Qalamoun Mountains, but these positions, which are supposed to be early warning posts, have become more like the Israeli positions that once stood in the hills of southern Lebanon – fixed targets for fighters prepared to engage in the tough work of guerilla warfare.

 

Today, with its change of strategy and intervention in the Syrian war alongside Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Hezbollah is living the proverb of the crow that tried to imitate the steps of the partridge only to fail and forget its own steps. It is the tragedy of a former resistance that is now being attacked using its own tactics.

 

Fidaa Itani tweets @Fidaaitani

Hezbollah's activities in resisting Israel were made legend, and the image of fighters taking part in that resistance was romanticized. (AFP Photo/STR)

Today, Hezbollah is living the nightmare it once inflicted on the Israeli occupation by using small groups of fighters and swift withdrawals.