Hezbollah is preparing to defend Damascus from an invasion by the Syrian rebels following a possible U.S. strike and for retaliation against Israel if the situation calls for it, Lebanese sources told Saudi newspaper Okaz on Thursday.
The sources told the newspaper that the Shiite organization recruited 10,000 fighters, who were tasked with defending the Syrian capital in the event the Syrian army fails to thwart attacks on it from both the rebels and the United States.
An attack on Israel, however, will only take place "after receiving a specific order [to do so] from Iran," the sources told Okaz.
Sources added that Hezbollah has intentionally remained silent in recent days because "the organization's leadership has understood right from the start that a military strike on [Damascus] is inevitable."
Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported on Tuesday that Hezbollah “called on all its officers and members to man their positions” ahead of the planned U.S. strike on Syria.
Hezbollah fighters have left their regular positions and checkpoints in southern Beirut, turning off their mobile phones so that they could not be traced, according to the witnesses.
The head of the Mustaqbal ("Future") party expressed doubt about Hezbollah's ability to respond to the impending military strike.
"The masters of Hezbollah in Syria and Iran cannot respond," Moyin Marabi said. "So a criminal sect that acts as a militia and gets its instructions from its masters surely cannot respond either."
Marabi noted that Hezbollah was left on its own during the 2006 Lebanon War against Israel, and that Syria and Iran did not help, choosing instead to stand by to protect their own interests. "Whoever examines the situation understands that Iran is trying, through the presidential elections in which Hassan Rouhani was elected, to appease the West in order to gain relief from all of the sanctions imposed on it. The Iranian regime will not defend the [Assad] regime, that Tehran and Moscow consider to have already fallen."
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer