DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 18, 2013, 12:52 PM (GMT+02:00)
Reports Monday, Feb. 18, that Hizballah has transferred 1,000 fighters to the Syrian district of Homs are a red herring to distract attention from six new major developments in the Syrian civil conflict – revealed here by DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources:
1. Contrary to reports of Hizballah attacks on villages in the Homs region, the thousand Hizballah militiamen have moved in to defend the predominantly Shiite villages of the area whose population is loyal to Bashar Assad. They are there to relieve the Syrian army of the burden of defending these Shiites against rebel attack.
Hizballah has also undertaken to guard Shiite holy shrines in Syria.
2. The Muslim factions of the Syrian revolt have received their first heavy weapons consignments, mostly Kornet and Fagot anti-tank missiles. Their improved armaments account for the new edge they display in battles with Bashar Assad’s army, although reports of their conquests are much exaggerated.
3. These arms are coming from two sources: radical Islamist organizations in Bosnia and Kosovo, some of them associated with al Qaeda – at least ideologically. It is hard to say who is organizing and bankrolling the new weapons sea route to Syria. According to one theory, it is the Albanian mafia.
4. For the first time, Syrian rebels are taking in arms unsupervised by any of the Western or Arab agencies involved in the Syrian revolt.
5. Most of the incoming weapons are destined for the Islamist Jabhat al-Nusra, the rebel faction identified with al Qaeda.
6. The Jabhat al-Nusra, newly armed with hardware from Bosnia and Kosovo, have pushed across the border into Lebanon, our sources reveal, and are harassing Hizballah in its home bases in the Beqaa Valley. Night after night in the last ten days, small bands of Islamist fighters, weighed down by heavy loads of rockets, are attacking Hizballah strongholds and isolated guard and watch posts and ambushing military vehicles.
Both are designated terrorist groups by the United States government.
The Syrian conflict has indeed spilled over the border into Lebanon. It is also turning more and more into a sectarian confrontation between extremist Sunnis and radical Shiites.