Hezbollah plans to attack militants inside Syria
In the midst of a damning report by Amnesty International describing the horrors Syrian civilians are living through, plans for fresh attacks on al-Qaeda-linked militants have been announced by Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah.
The group’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has hinted at an impending military operation against al-Qaeda-linked militants in the mountainous area inside Syria.
Local media and the Syrian opposition are speculating the assault could start within days.
But Mr Nasrallah has not revealed any concrete plans.
“When this operation begins, it will announce itself by imposing itself on the media, and then everyone will know that this operation has started” he said in a televised address.
“But concerning, in regards to, its goals, limits, location and where it’s heading, this will be left for the right time, and we will not declare it now. It’s not in our interest to announce everything now.”
Some Lebanese officials have warned Hezbollah against launching the attack, saying it would stir tensions in the country and drag Lebanon further into the conflict in Syria.
But the Hezbollah leader said, by not taking action, it would be avoiding its responsibility.
The Shi’ite Muslim group is a staunch ally of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and has sent hundreds of combatants to fight with his forces in the four-year civil war.
And it is during this civil war that, the human-rights group Amnesty International said, civilians have endured unbearable suffering and sheer terror.
A new report by the group claimed barrel bombs dropped by Syrian government forces have killed at least 11,000 people in Syria since 2012.
It described the bombings as crimes against humanity.
“Barrel bombs are essentially oil drums with TNT and shrapnel inside, and, when civilians hear the hissing sound so characteristic of barrel-bomb attacks, they essentially know they have two minutes in which they can try to seek refuge,” said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program director, Philip Luther.
Amnesty’s investigation shows many residents have been forced underground to escape government forces’ relentless aerial bombardment of opposition-held areas.
The report, entitled Death Everywhere: War crimes and human-rights abuses in Aleppo, says the city, near the Syria-Turkey border, has been particularly hard hit.
The report also said torture, arbitrary detention and abduction of civilians in Aleppo by both sides has been widespread.
It said attacks from government and rebel forces have left civilians in Aleppo living in dire conditions.
Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières claimed Al-Sakhour hospital in Aleppo has suspended its activities after being targeted.
“This hospital is the second-biggest in east Aleppo, and it’s one of the two performing life-saving trauma surgeries. It’s a hospital well equipped with materials and staff, so it’s one of the key hospitals treating the war-wounded patients,” said Médecins Sans Frontières spokesman Carlos Francisco.
“We request from the warring parties that they respect these medical facilities, they respect the medical staff and they respect the civilian population.”