The Lebanese Shi’ite movement Hezbollah vowed to maintain its “jihad” in neighboring Syria at a huge rally in Beirut yesterday, a day after its leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the war was in a phase of escalation.
Addressing thousands marking Shi’ite Islam’s annual Ashura religious commemoration in a heavily secured square in Hezbollah’s south Beirut stronghold, Nasrallah said the war in Syria was being fought in defense of the whole region.
“We will continue to bear our great responsibilities of jihad there. Your sons are there, and your men, your brothers, your husbands. They are defending their existence, dignity and the resistance,” he said.
Black-clad supporters paraded through the streets to mark the 7th-century death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson Hussein, seen by Shi’ites as a divinely guided leader, and they roared approval of Nasrallah’s remarks.
“We answer your call, o Nasrallah!” they chanted.
Since Hezbollah’s entry into Syria’s civil war on the side of President Bashar al-Assad, some 1,500 of its fighters have died, say security sources in Lebanon. These have included about 350 this year; their images, often in heroic pose, are displayed on posters in Shi’ite villages across Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s part in the war is presented by the movement as both a defense against Sunni Muslim jihadists in Syria who have vowed to exterminate all Shi’ites, and as a way of protecting the regional Iran-backed bloc that has long sustained Hezbollah.