debkafile’s military sources report that Hizballah’s elite Al Qods Brigade suffered a grinding defeat – its gravest since first intervening in the Syrian civil war – and heavy losses in the battle for al Qusayr in the Homs sector of northern Syria Monday, April 29. Among the dead were two high-ranking officers, the Al Qods Brigade commander, known as “Abu Ajib” and his lieutenant Hamza Ramloush, as well as dozens of dead and wounded.
The joint Hizballah-Syrian force abruptly broke off its assault on this front under attack from a mixed rebel force of local militias reinforced by radical Sunni Salafists from Lebanon.
Having just taken delivery of a large quantity of Grad rockets and launchers, these Lebanese radicals were able to catch the Hizballah brigade in a surprise artillery ambush and inflict heavy casualties.
At home, Hizballah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah will have to face the music. Apart from the effect of this defeat on his personal standing in Beirut, he will have to explain why he bowed to Iranian pressure during a secret visit to Tehran in the second week of April to increase the number of Hizballah combatants fighting for Bashar Assad beyond the 5,000-strong force already there.
Hizballah was already under the threat of Lebanese Sunni radicals to hit Hizballah hard unless it pulled out of the Syrian war. The voices raised quietly against his decision in his own movement will grow a lot louder now and put his authority at risk.
The Lebanese Salafists, for their part, will be encouraged by their triumph in Syria to tackle the weakened Hizballah on home ground.
The Syrian army has suffered reverses on additional fronts. Contrary to the reports circulating this week that the rebels were focusing much of their strength on capturing Syrian Air Force bases, debkafile’s military sources report they have turned their energy on seizing Syrian army’s short-range ground rocket bases. With their sights on Scud B and Fateh A-110 missiles, they this week attacked the Mount Kalmoon missile base in southern Damascus and the Mangh missile facility near the Syrian air force base outside Aleppo. They were counseled to go for those bases by their foreign advisers when those rockets began ramping up casualties, and have managed to demolish much of the Damascus missile base. This success has loosened Bashar Assad’s army’s hold on the capital.
With regard to the chemical weapon dispute, our military and Washington sources report that the Obama administration has lodged a strong complaint with the offices of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon over the claim published Monday by a senior Israeli official (unnamed) of “clear evidence based on raw, real and solid material” – not just assessments – that Bashar Assad is using chemical weapons against rebels.
He said this information is known to every concerned intelligence agency and none question it. The officer added that Israel should be concerned about chemical weapons leaking from Syria to Hizballah or other terrorist groups trying to reach the Israeli border. Their possible acquisition of chemical or even conventional weapons which they have never before laid hands on is of great concern to Israel.
In their complaint, US officials said they knew nothing of this evidence and US intelligence had not been made privy to such material.