The Hizballah army has eight combat brigades.
They are not brigades in the usual Western military sense of tactical military formations composed of three to six battalions each plus support elements. Hizballah brigades are spread out and enlist manpower on a territorial basis, each with jurisdiction over its respective turf and a local manpower pool from which to draw recruits and which differs from unit to unit.
A typical Hizballah brigade consists of approximately 3,200 to 5,500 troops and three to four battalions and numbers no more than 2,000 to 3,000 fighters.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources list the eight brigades which command the Syrian and Israeli borders in eastern and southern Lebanon and their functions:
- Al Harmel Brigade is responsible for the Beqaa Valley district and Lebanon's northeastern border with Syria and houses Hizballah’s main secret rocket storehouse. Some are hidden in underground silos in areas covered by deep forest.
- Baalbek Brigade is named for the biggest town in the Beqaa Valley east of the Litani River. Hizballah's main military bases and ammunition dumps are located in and around the city.
- Western Beqaa Brigade is entrusted with defending the rest of the Beqaa district.
Hizballah keeps three brigades in southern Lebanon:
- The Tyre Brigade guards the Mediterranean coast and western areas abutting on northern Israel.
- The Jabal Amel-Bint Jbeil Brigade is responsible for the mountain region of central South Lebanon.
- The Shebaa Brigade for eastern Lebanon up to the borders of northern Israel, the Golan and Mount Hermon.
- The two Beirut Brigades: Hizballah's military intelligence, logistical and administrative headquarters are located in the Dahiya quarter of the Lebanese capital. Housed there too is the joint Iran-Hizballah military command center for the Syrian conflict.
Hizballah starts sending over troops fully armed
As of Saturday, May 25, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources say four Hizballah brigades were fighting alongside the Syrian army – two of them going in as their leader Hassan Nasrallah in his broadcast speech that same day vowed to fight for Bashar Assad to the finish.
Our sources offer an exclusive map of Hizballah’s fields of operation, functions and tactics in the Syrian war arena:
Those four brigades, accounting for half of Hizballah’s combat strength, are battling rebels in the main war sectors of Al Qusayr, Homs and Damascus.
Nasrallah boasted that with two words, he could muster tens of thousands of holy fighters to join the battle.
However, Sunday, May 26, Hizballah was pushed enough for manpower to secretly call-up all of its reserves.
Thursday, May 30, a fresh increment of Hizballah troops crossed into Syria and headed south to the rebel stronghold of Deraa, 30 kilometers from the Israeli border.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources report that, while the two brigades fighting in Al-Qusayr arrived sans arms or equipment, collecting them from the Syrian army, the second two entered fully equipped and armed with heavy weapons, such as BM-1 Katyuhsa rockets, heavy 240-mm shells, and surface-to-surface missiles, including the Iranian-made solid propellant Zelzal-3 missiles which have a range of 200 kilometers.
Missile units attached to Hizballah combatants in Syria
And that was not all. According to a Western intelligence officer serving in the region and monitoring Hizballah military movements, the second group of Hizballah troops entering Syria was weighed down with a vast array of every imaginable weapon – from automatic side-arms to the Iranian-made medium-range Fajr-3 ballistic missile, whose range is an estimated 2,000-2,500 kilometers.
The decision to send fighting brigades into Syria complete with every kind of military gear including missiles was taken, according to our sources, at an emergency meeting on Syria convened by Hizballah’s general staff Saturday, a few hours before Nasrallah’s speech.
Is top decision-makers feared that launching missiles from Lebanese territory would lay Hizballah open to the charge of dragging Lebanon into the Syrian war. This charge that was leveled at the Shiite terrorist group last week by the United States, for whom the 8,000 Lebanese Hizballah mujahedeen fighting Assad’s war was incriminating enough.
The Hizballah general staff is a tight group of four, consisting of Hassan Nasrallah, General Secretary; Talal Hamia, Supreme Commander of Hizballah forces in Syria – promoted from his former job as chief of the organization’s clandestine targeted assassination and terrorism arm; Wafiq Safa, Deputy Commander in charge of the transfer of troops and intelligence from Lebanon to Syria as well as logistics. Safa is also Hassan Nasrallah's second cousin; and the fourth member, Sheikh Nasser Al Din, head of the Hizballah Central Committee.
Hizballah also relieves the Syrian army of sundry tasks
The second two brigades entering Syria did not join the Al-Qusayr battle. One made for eastern Damascus to reinforce the Syrian army’s operation for repulsing a rebel attack on the city's airport.
The second headed for Homs. After flushing out the last pockets of rebel resistance there, the Lebanese Shiite fighters will turn to the last remaining rebel strongholds in Idlib province and the Mount Zawiya region, near the Syrian-Iraqi border.
Our sources reveal some other of Hizballah’s support functions for the Syrian army.
Backed by Iraqi Shiite miltiamen, Hizballah fighters stand guard over the Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque, an important Shiite shrine built at the tomb of Zaynab, the daughter of Ali, their first Imam.
From there, they provide back-up for Syrian forces fighting to push the rebels out of the Damascus neighborhoods of Tadamo and Hajar al-Aswad and the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk.
The Lebanese Shiite fighters are in action in the rural districts of Homs and along the Syrian border with Lebanon.
Hizballah detachments keep the Damascus-Beirut highway open and police the traffic of people, goods and fuel at the crossing-points between Syria and Lebanon.