Syria preparing for new battle in Qalamoun Mountains

The Qalamoun Mountains is located in Western Syria adjacent to the Lebanese border. All eyes are now on this area as it is expected to be the next major front in the battle for Syria. This as armed opposition groups fled to the region after the Syrian army pushed them back from areas like Al-Ghouta Al-Sharqiah on the outskirts of Damascus. With the close geographical proximity of Qalamoun to Lebanon, unsurprisingly Hezbollah is under the spotlight. In the offensive which was launched to liberate the city of Qusayr, which also lies on the border with Lebanon, Hezbollah played a major role in defeating the armed opposition groups. But some say that Qalamoun is a different story which may not necessarily prompt the same level of Hezbollah involvement. Nevertheless it seems some sides beleive that Hezbollah may get involved and are hence sending warnings to the resistance movement. Some Lebanese political figures have spoken about threats from Saudi Arabia if Hezbollah indeed plays a role in this anticipated upcoming war front. The pre-dominant group in Qalamoun is Liwaa-Alislam, the main Saudi sponsored group of the opposition. Its leader Zahran Alloush is the son of a Saudi based religious scholar. Alloush is reported to have recently met the head of Saudi intelligence Bandar Bin Sultan during a trip to Saudi Arabia. Bandar is known for his extreme enmity towards the anti-Israeli resistance axis comprised of Iran Syria and Hezbollah. But Hezbollah has pursued its usual policy of ambiguity in such issues. Hezbollah's Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has underscored however that the group will not be deterred, and will take part in future battles in Syria if deemed necessary. Local Lebanese media has reported that armed groups in Qalamoun are preparing to send car bombs to carry out explosion in southern Beirut, which is known to be a pro-Hezbollah area. The US decision to back down from a military strike on Syria, and a somewhat new found positive atmosphere between Iran and the West have placed Saudi Arabia in a somewhat desperate situation. Hence Riyadh may want to make up for these losses by scoring points on the Syrian battlefield or even sending Saudi sponsored militants to take the fight against Hezbollah inside Lebanon. Such possibilities could indeed make Hezbollah view the battle of Qalamoun as one where its involvement is deemed necessary.

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